I don’t like death. Well, I am yet to meet anyone who does. My greatest frustration with death is that no one survives it to give a detailed account of what exactly happens when someone dies. I have a very inquisitive mind so you can imagine the “uncertified” ideas I have about death. Movies have not made it easy either. Some people “die” violently, others just close their eyes and are no more. Dead.
Many cultures in Kenya consider it a taboo to talk about death. Perhaps that is why you will find people crowding around accident spots or crime scenes. It’s our chance to glimpse at death. Have you ever noticed how people queue for hours to just glimpse at the body of a prominent person?
No one gets used to death and no amount of preparation or information can shield you from its pain and grief. Even when you thought you saw it coming when it finally checks in, the death sting will always hurt as much. It is not a respecter of age, marital status, wealth, profession, religious belief or education background. It strikes whenever and wherever it wants.
I started having questions about death when I was very young. Every time any of my pets died, I was devastated. My mum, like many other parents would attempt to comfort me by saying, “It’s in a better place.” This of course left me wondering, “Was I that bad that it had to go somewhere else?”
The older I got, the more frustrated I became with death. There was no stopping it. It came after my family and after my close friends. I was bitter for a very long time. Every time I heard about death even if it was a stranger, my own “death wounds” ached.
Every time I thought I had “enough experience” to encourage people who were dealing with death, my own heart demanded answers. It seemed unfair and unjust to rip precious ones from us without our consent. In my attempt to comfort the victims I ended up saying things that in retrospect made the situation worse.
Recently, when I was bitten by a snake, death was on my mind a lot. “What if I die?” I kept asking myself. What if this is it. The end of my days. What if I don’t make it out of this alive? What does this mean to my family, my relationship and my friends? What awaits me? Have I lived my life well enough? What will I be remembered for? Am I even ready to die?
We are often very reflective when someone close to us dies. We swear to ourselves to be better people, to live for what matters, to be there for other people and to make our lives count. We promise ourselves that we will embark on a new and more meaningful life from that moment on. The brevity of life finally dawns on us and it scares us to know that there is a part of our life that we don’t have control over.
But this new revelation is often short lived. We soon go back to our “normal” fast lives. Yes “our” lives. Before we know it, our new values and resolutions take a back seat. We lose sight of what we resolved to uphold. We go back to living for ourselves, ready to do whatever it takes to seal that deal. We put our health on line and throw our conscience out the window, fight whoever stands in our way and step on others if only to “get there” faster.
The fortunate yet unfortunate bit about life is that it does not give you a death rehearsal. You only live once and most certainly, die once as well. Every day you are alive you are living and rehearsing to die at the same time. Some of us of course have perfected the “art of playing with death” through our driving, diet and drinking habits but even then, we all don’t know when and how we finally bow out.
One day, it will be us that people mourn. It will be our departure that will make people rethink their lives. How sad it will be that at the end of the days of our lives all we will have to show are graveyard resolutions that never got to live.
It’s sobering to know that we have no control of when we die. It should be. This does not mean that we ought to live in fear of death but we cannot ignore it altogether. In my view, death should be a motivator for living and not a source of fear. The snake bite and a gangster waving a gun to my face experiences made it very clear to me, it could be anytime. What is sad is that I will soon forget that am not here forever. Neither are you.
So while we are still here, today, let’s make it count. Let’s be the best we can. Let’s aspire to live behind a legacy (and not a Subaru, blue or otherwise). A legacy that generations after us will remember. A legacy that you and I, left “our environments” better than we found them. This is not the responsibility for the Mheshimiwas; it’s for all of us. We owe it to ourselves to leave a good story behind. Not just an “I was here.”
Today you get to rehearse for your death by living. Put on a good show. It could happen anytime. Maybe not a snake bite but who knows when it’s your story that makes us reflect on The Days of Our Lives.
Editing by Wanjiku Kimaru