Here today, gone tomorrow

PENULTIMATE week was a particularly trying one for the nation. While we thought the worst of Boko Haram attacks was behind us, an Air Force fighter jet involved in counter-insurgency operation in the North-East bombed a settlement in Rann, Borno State, killing scores of people including officials of the Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) as well as some internally displaced people.

Many of the affected people had survived several attacks by Boko Haram; they had been able to weather severely harsh conditions in the jungle, going without food and water for several days while trying to escape from the terrorists. When they thought they were finally free from security worries, they were mauled by those trying to annihilate their tormentors. How unfortunate!

Following the bomb attack, fragments of mutilated bodies of people who were just a few seconds earlier vivant, bubbling with life, replete with hope and probably making plans and looking forward to a better future, only to be blown into tiny pieces, littered the settlement. They were full of life one minute, dead to the world the next. They were full of hope one moment, and utterly hopeless the next. News about them elicited joy one second and sparked sorrow and anguish the next. How sad!

Besides the bodies of the casualties being charred and battered, their dreams were also shattered. Some of those victims had great dreams for themselves, their parents, siblings, spouses, children, organisation and even Nigeria. Many of them had dreams of continuing with their education, dreams of buying new cars, building new houses, being promoted on their jobs, starting their own businesses, giving out their children in marriage or living to a good old age with their spouses. But what has become of the dreams? They are lost forever, lost beyond recovery, lost beyond redemption. The dreams are lost to the momentary error of judgment of those trying to secure them. Those dreams, no matter their beauty or loftiness, have become, like their owners, history.

However, in spite of the gloom that has enveloped us, the reality of our helplessness and the excruciating pain we feel due to our loss, there is a take away for all of us from the ugly Rann incident, which is the temporariness of life. We are birds of passage, we cannot abide here forever. At a point, we have to bow out. We are like a mist, vivant and vibrant in a moment, lifeless and inert the next.

After death what is left is memory. The relations, friends and associates of the victims of the bombing have only the memory of the dead to hold on to. But the kind of memory that would be is a function of the kind of relationship they had.

While many of us have come to terms with the fact that our stay on earth is fleeting, we still struggle with the reality that end can come at any point. If we had the consciousness that the end might come unannounced, we would pay attention to the most important thing in life.

The most important thing in life is not wealth, power or position; it is to positively affect the other person. Man is a social animal. This is to enable him positively impact on other members of the society, not to extort or exact upon them. The one who impacts on the people positively is the one who is able to achieve significance, which is superior to success. Success is cheap, anybody can accomplish it. All it requires is for one to hit a set target. Significance is more difficult because it is helping others to accomplish their target probably when you are still struggling with yours. But that really is what endears one genuinely to the people. Success or failure in helping people to accomplish their goals is what determines the kind of memory they will have of you.

This is not about going to heaven or hell; it is about being alive in people’s minds after you are gone. The tragedy of life is to live without making any positive impact; it is to be forgotten the moment one is dead or to be remembered with anguish or regret. The remedy is to deliberately live to positively impact other people’s lives; it is to live such that others can trace their success to your contribution.

We are here today and will be gone tomorrow. So, we must of necessity do the most good that we can do today so that our memory would spark love and admiration, not hatred and disgust when we expire. It is said that to live in the hearts of those we love is not to die. The only thing that makes that possible is the impact we make while we live. Those who live a life of impact never die; they only continue their existence in another realm.