Death, the ignored reality

Life begets death. The day a person is born, the race to death tees off. For some, it is a dash; 100 metres or 200 metres. For others, it is a mini-marathon; 1,000metres or 2,000metres. For yet some others, it is a long-winding marathon. But short or long, it is as certain as taxes that every living being is a candidate for dying. It is to the eternal shame of man that despite his strides in science and technology; the conquest of the moon and the galaxy, the advancement in medical science as well as information technology, he has failed to demystify death, the grim reaper.

Death is a leveller; he neither respects status nor stature. Whenever he shows up, nothing else matters but his mission. He is a sharpshooter that never misses target. He strikes with absolute precision; his darts always hit the intended spot. He goes for the powerful with the same zeal he guns for the feeble. He seeks out the celebrity with the same gusto he plucks the nonentity. He chalks out the governor the same way he mows down the governed. He scythes down the young with the same dexterity he mows down the old.

One amazing thing about death is that he is adept at avoiding those who seek him the most. The mad man drinks water from the drainage, sleeps in the open, at the mercy of mosquitoes as well as the elements and eats from the garbage bin, but is never admitted to the hospital. He is never down with malaria or struck by cholera. But not so the one who takes distilled water, never sleeps anywhere except under a treated mosquito net and goes for regular medical check-ups; he is assailed by malaria, troubled by dysentery, attacked by liver cirrhosis, beleaguered by high blood pressure and ailed by COVID-19, all agents of death. The mad man struts on the highway, gives no care about cars or lorries, yet death hardly goes for him but picks on the man who is jogging to keep fit and healthy as he is smashed on the walkway by a hit and run driver who veers off the road under the influence of excess liquor.

It is surprising that surprise is expressed when death occurs. Does certainty spring surprise? Can we be shocked at the manifestation of our expectation? If we know that we were born to die, why should we be taken aback when death occurs? Nothing is as certain as death, yet man continues to express surprise when death shows up. The reason is that death is a reality man always tries to wish away.

At the height of his accomplishments man is tempted to think that he is immortal. He wants to believe that nothing gets done unless he is around. In his mind, he thinks that the world would cease to exist when he exits. So, he begins to have a larger than life perception of himself. He becomes boastful and vainglorious. He gets late to ceremonies because he knows that the events will not start unless he is seated. He gives appointments and deliberately fails to keep them. He becomes the lord at whose altar everybody must worship. But it is all a sham; it is a mist; as futile as grasping for air; as unreal as a fantasy; as frustrating as waiting for yesterday.

So, what is the basis of the boast of the powerful or the rich or the influential if the same death that kills the overlord kills the underdog? Why should anyone look contemptuously at another if the same fate awaits the two? Why should anyone walk as if the whole world is in his pocket when tomorrow he could be swallowed up by the earth?

The purpose of living is to leave a legacy. The only one who does not die in vain is the one who bequeathed a worthwhile legacy; the one who made an impact on those who had contact with him or her. Leaving a legacy is not the birthright of the high and mighty; it is the responsibility of everyone who lives. It does not require a high office or oodles of funds; all it needs is a loving heart and a pair of caring hands. John Wesley puts it best, he says, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

If all the good you can do is to give a smile to a despondent soul, give it with all your heart and you will have acted well your part. To fail to help because you can’t do much is to slide into insignificance. Thinking that it is only those who have amassed a number of years and a measure of affluence who can affect others positively is to miss the opportunity to live a life of impact because death has no regard for age or affluence.

No life is eventful or impactful if it fails to have a positive imprint on at least another one.



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