By Ugoji Egbujo
Everyone must die. Death is a debt we must all pay. Youth gives us a false sense of immortality. But age clears the fog. We see our friends and family disappear. And that illusory immortality fades. Death makes life finite and therefore precious. But it’s the arbitrariness of death that makes living a nervous enterprise.
Death takes from the crib. And poaches at prime. When it comes when it should come, it is met with mixed emotions: rued and yet celebrated. Separation always comes with pain. But when it comes and steals, it leaves broken lives and bleeding hearts.
Death often kills more than the dead. It can take one soul and leave one or two surviving souls moribund, as literal ghosts: hollowed out.
Death can clobber. And it can snatch cleanly. It’s that versatile.
One wakes up healthy and brimming with life, then stumbles, falls and dies. The autopsy would say a tiny blood vessel ruptured, carelessly, in the brain.
The other battles and battles with a chronic disease and exhausts everyone one, doctors inclusive, and then submits. They could have helped death to help him if assisted suicide wouldn’t be murder. But they would cry when he is gone.
A jilted teenager, naïve lover, drinks poison and death collects her soul. It’s pitiless.
An armed robber goes out everyday with foolhardiness, unsure of how the day would end. Death let’s him go and maim and come. Until he dies cheaply someday. A woman seems sheltered and secure . She feels a sudden sharp pain and collapses. She doesn’t make it to the hospital through the traffic jam. The doctors say she ruptured her Fallopian tubes. She had an Ectopic pregnancy. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. The neighbours called her the barren woman.
Death’s separation is irredeemable. Children will cry and long hopelessly for their mother. They will be told she travelled. Then another woman comes a few months later and their lives become what they shall become. A pastor dies and the church loses its essence and drifts in the hands of another. Some members come unarmored. And float back to their Egypt. A man dies and his wife and children become economic refugees. They are relocated to the village and their new reality. With him, they had seemed privileged.
I promised to help a young man. He had been repatriated from South-east Asia. He had seemed a wreck of a fast moving train on an illicit track in Malaysia. He was deported. He came back without his mind. He roamed. And roamed. Two weeks after I promised to help rebuild his life he woke up and hung himself on a tree. And left me sick and guilty.
A colleague is found in his hotel room lying face-down. The police have no clues. We are left to grieve speechlessly.
Death takes with it the dead and takes so much more. It takes their good manners and cheerfulness that light up rooms and lives. It takes with it their knowledge that was once commonwealth. It takes the public and the private. It takes their wishes and their secrets. And leaves the living more wretched.
Death cleanses. The old culled, so that the new and young can flourish. The earth would have suffered from chronic constipation if it didn’t have an excretion mechanism. But death is not focused on benevolent renewal. It takes the chicks and leaves old worn layers, sometimes. And ordains the grief that only hell can fashion.
People say goodbye casually and walk away. And never come back.
Sometimes, the plane crashes. But sometimes it doesn’t. A friend is supposed to be there going about her business. You are sure. Then you run into a facebook post . There is a candle beside her smiling face. The message:Goodnight. The post is a month old. You feel faint. And manage to scroll through the comments. It’s filled with RIPs. She is dead.
Her phones are switched off. She has been buried? You scroll through your phone. And read. Your Christmas message hasn’t still delivered. And you didn’t notice. Nothing will be delivered to her again. Death passed by. She wasn’t qualified. Her last baby isn’t two years old yet. You can’t accept it’s final. It’s dumb. You are numb.
Then the memories flood in. And life becomes such almost a wasteful routine. Why do good young dependable people die? She was healthy. Now she is dead. She didn’t get a quit notice. And you were not in the picture.
Why then are we so much attached to the world if death follows us everywhere and reaps drunkenly. Why do we fight and gather compulsively? Why do we even lose sleep? Why can’t we just love ourselves and our neighbours on our borrowed times.
When death strikes all that is left is to mourn and grieve. Grief is useful. Friends and family are precious and perishable. Bereavement is harrowing. Grief that comes with it burns the heart. But teaches the mind. Take nothing for granted. Life is short. Rest in peace, Damola.
Death is brutal….