Death, the very taboo subject we all want to avoid is, sadly, a part of our daily life.
The concept of death affects our perception of life and informs the way we view life in general. For instance, to a young person, death is still a term to be grasped because life is what the young look forward to, whereas to an older person, death is more real, it’s a certainty, a fact of life.
The things that are important to us change as we age and it’s the inevitability of death that informs these changes. Either way, life and death are our realities, like someone said, “None of us will get out of this world alive.” True.
Death is a transition from this life unto another realm as we’ve been told by our religions, even so, it is still a topic we want to avoid because we don’t understand it and it scares us silly.
Philosophers who’ve tried to explain it have come up empty, Jeff Mason once argued that the concept of death has no subjective meaning. He said, “There are no experts on death, for there is nothing to know about it. Not even those who study the death process have an edge on the rest of us. We are all equals in thinking about death, and we all begin and end thinking about it from a position of ignorance.”
No one in history has ever died, was buried and came back to life again, apart of course, from Jesus, which is why many define death or explain death by what the Bible says.
We’ve heard of people who’ve had near death experiences, the out of body experience that I’m sure quite a number of us may have also experienced at some traumatic point in our lives. We’ve heard stories of people who were presumed dead and almost buried but woke up again and we’ve heard of people who ran into someone they didn’t realise had died.
Have any of these been substantiated? I’m not aware. All of these are reasons why the concept of death remains a mystery. Science hasn’t been able to explain it, religion tries to but very few people even want to discuss it. Death is universal, irreversible, final and comes many times without a meaningful cause leaving us numb with no answers to the whys?
Why do we have to die?
Where do the dead go?
Why can’t we communicate with the dead?
Why are we frightened by the very concept of death, if indeed it is a part of life?
Why don’t we get notice?
I found myself in Ibusa, Delta State a while ago at the burial of a beloved friend. I was confronted once again, I suppose like everyone present at the burial, with this mystery about death.
I watched the solemn procession as it filled the Catholic Church where the final rites of passage was being held and half listened to the priest’s sermon.
“He has gone to a better place,” he intoned “and won’t want to come back here again, even if given the chance.”
“He would,” I said under my breath. “He’s got very energetic seven-year-old twin boys and an adorable little boy of three who has been asking their mum, ‘When will daddy come back from the hospital?’”
They saw him when he was hurriedly bundled off by friends into a waiting vehicle many Sundays ago. They stood at the corners watching as their mother wailed when their father’s eyes rolled up with dilated pupils. He seemed to have been looking directly at them and so their young minds told them, “Daddy is ill but he’ll come back from the hospital”.
Then strangers began to troop into their home; they came from everywhere, their father’s friends, their friend’s parents, their school teachers and neighbours. They watched the pile of shoes at their doorstep grow as more people came, mostly dressed in black and women with red eyes sat in silence for long hours with their mum while they whispered amongst themselves, “Daddy’s illness is bad but he’ll be back.”
They played outside and laughed and chased themselves around the house, they threatened one another with “I will report you to Daddy” over the other’s bad behavior. They repeated conversations they planned to have with Daddy when he got back and when the days seemed to get long, they needled at their mum over and over again, “When will Daddy return or did he travel again?”
They heard the whispers from strangers that came visiting.
“Who is dead, Mummy is it Daddy?”
She replied between fresh tears and body racking sobs.
“OK, so when will he really, really come back?”
How do you explain the concept of death to seven-year-olds? How does a three-year-old understand daddy isn’t ever coming back? Will he even remember dad in a year’s time?
But I’m back to the church on the pew and watching with a heavy heart as the casket is being rolled out. John Bradford’s expression comes to mind, “There but for the grace of God, goes I”.
I watched the deceased’s young wife, utterly devastated, and still unable to understand that the man whose hands steadied her through eight short years is no more, dead without even being ill!
Words screamed in my head, no Reverend Father, he would want to come back! He was a hands-on father, a truly devoted dad in every word not just because we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. He was the caregiver, the one who did school runs, showed up for PTAs, fixed the plumbing, replaced light bulbs, serviced the cars, and almost everything in his home without calling artisans to do the job. He also had good culinary skills, too, so he would want to come back!
But who knows, maybe he is good where he is and may well be hovering over us with a smile or a frown? Who knows?
What I do know is that he would still be with us if the errant blood clot had been seen and thinned out! What he needed was just aspirin, perhaps N100 worth of aspirin could have saved his life.
Now, I wonder, in five years’ time, will his sons remember him, what he looked like, how he laughed?
Time heals all wounds, even the ones inflicted by sudden death such as this but the truth is; we were all born at a time, we live our lives through times and we die at the appointed time; that’s the cycle of life!