Wanting to Know the What and Why

Most of us, when we lose someone, want to know the what and why. What took the person from us, and why now? Why this person? Why this way? Books are even written on the topic: Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. The questions seem pretty near universal, I suspect even in religious traditions where acceptance is a spiritual norm.

I suppose getting answers to the what and why gives some illusion of control, makes the loss seem less random. Even when a death is long anticipated and the “what” is clear, the question of “why” often remains. Why this person? Why this way? Why now?

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared without a trace four years ago. Since then, despite a massive effort, no trace of the plane or the people aboard has been recovered. That means the what and why remain mysteries. But the burning desire to know what happened, especially on the part of the families of those lost, remains.

There is a new theory, put forth on the Australian edition of 60 minutes: the captain intentionally depressurized the plane, rendering everyone else unconscious, made a sweeping turn to say good-bye to his home city of Penang, and ditched the plane, committing suicide and killing everyone on board.

Authorities continue to insist that the loss of the plane was due to an accidental depressurization that left everyone, including the pilot, unconscious. The plane few on until it was out of fuel, and then crashed into the ocean.


We’ll likely never know which version of the loss is true, and the families of those who died will be deprived of whatever comfort knowing the truth might offer. But it doesn’t mean they’ll stop seeking answers.

We’re still trying to find the what and why of Amelia Earhart’s death; her plane was lost in 1937. Every so often a new theory pops up to explain her disappearance, lo these many years later. The longing to know is really strong and enduring.


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