How an Air Force Fighter Pilot Faces His Approaching Death. How would you?
Air Force Captain Cole “Twitch” Holloway was a US Air Force F-15 fighter pilot last year, flying out of Okinawa, Japan. At some point he started noticing “something weird” was going on with his body — symptoms like unexplained muscle weakness. That led to a diagnosis of ALS last October. (Left unsaid is whether the symptoms of the undiagnosed disease were the source of his callsign, “Twitch”.)
ALS has a post-diagnosis life expectancy of two to five years. There is no cure.
Since then (the Air Force article on Holloway was written last year but only recently published), Holloway has been medically retired from the Air Force and he’s living his life knowing it won’t last:
The couple plans to travel, experience life and make the most of the unknown time they have left together.
“I’m going to hangout with my family and friends and make the most of the time I have left on earth,” Holloway said. “Most people live two to five years after their diagnosis. We’re hoping it’s longer than that, but obviously there’s no cure for it so, it is what it is; the cards have been dealt and I can’t do anything aside from look at them and bet however I may…”
“My legacy going from this point on is to be a good friend, a good husband, a good family member and somebody who just enjoyed their time with the people they were around…”
It is tragic that Holloway will likely die young — he appears to have only graduated pilot training three years ago. While we all “expect” to die — we’re mortal after all — we generally hope it will be after a long life, even if we don’t know the appointed hour.
Holloway doesn’t know the appointed hour, but his window of expectation is considerably closer, and smaller, than most.
Still, that hasn’t apparently fazed him or his wife:
“Ultimately, I’m neutral about the whole thing because I believe I’ve prepared myself well for the eventuality of death, as weird as that may sound,” Holloway sighed. “When something like this happens, it’s going to affect you, but not nearly as much as it could somebody who hasn’t put aside an hour of their life to think about their own mortality…
“You’re defeated but there’s no one to be upset at; we can’t be upset at one another, we can’t be upset at the world and that’s weirdly freeing,” Meghan explained. “I hope that in the time we have together, we do whatever this guy wants to do…because the sense of freedom we’ve been talking about, also gives [him] no fear.”
Since the diagnosis, Holloway has gained new perspectives on life…
The official military context of the article was “resiliency.” In essence, it showed Holloway as an example of dealing with, to put it lightly, life challenges.
Naturally, when we talk about someone’s death — especially that of a terminal illness — we speak of mortality, legacy, and perspective. Christians also speak of their faith. As appears evident from the interviews above, Christ is not a part of Holloway’s life. The only direct non-theistic detail publicly available was the fact their post-courthouse wedding ceremony was explicitly “non-religious.” Otherwise, if you can communicate your deepest thoughts on your coming death and not once mention even spirituality, it’s probably a safe bet you’re not concerned with religion.
Regrettably, that deepens the tragedy. To know that your soul will soon be required of you and to yet not be concerned of things eternal is distressing on an eternal level. Yet, there is still time.
What others do with their eternity is ultimately out of our control. But what will you do with yours? Your soul will be required of you, as well, at a time you may not know or expect.
If you were to know your time left on this earth was six months, or a year, or two years — what would you do?
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony