I do not know about you, but the thought of death shudders me every time I contemplate upon it.
Ian Gemenchu was a guy I met while in second year at campus. He was that random guy who approached me all smiles with that Rastafarian greeting of gently bumping our fists, then he’d lift his up and routinely shout, “Jah bless!”
I was amused by the kind of energy that guy possessed. I needed friends with that kind of energy back then. It is different today. And so the pleasure was all mine. We had supper that very day with Ian and I couldn’t want him to stop talking about Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and all the ways of the Rastafarians. Ian emphasized on the smoking of cannabis which they believe to be their sacrament that possesses unquantified benefits. He further placed prominence on their regard to natural ital (Inexpensive, salt-free, one-pot, pure, natural food that is uniquely developed by Rastafarians). He proceeded to narrate in a manner second to none, the imminence of twisting of their hair into dreadlocks.
He always never concluded any talk of ours without passionately singing lyrics of Bob Marley and then subsequently insisting on the need of taking the messages seriously regardless of my religious affiliation. Some of those lyrics remain engraved in me:
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for” – Bob Marley
“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.” – Bob Marley
Ian was that guy you couldn’t tell whether he was depressed or jubilant. He was always high in spirits partly because he was always high on cannabis and partly because he was of the sanguine temperament. He was that guy one would resort to when distressed to obtain sufficient comfort which he always offered.
‘My man! You are a medic! Jeez! Why have you never said! I have immense admiration for medics. I was expelled from my previous campus where I was studying physiotherapy because of my Rasta lifestyle. Jah will deal with that administration.’ Ian retorted one day after meeting me in a lab coat headed for a lab session. Later in the day he told me how high a regard he had for medics and that once I made it, I would help him overcome the alcoholic and bhang addiction he had.
One fateful Friday, Ian passed by my hostel room, ‘Daktari! Nimeenda dunda! We uniombee nikue safe! Shikilia uzito!’ (Doctor! I’m headed out for partying! Pray that I be safe! Cheers!) He mentioned with finality as our fists knocked each other simultaneously and we echoed, ‘Jah bless!’,as we burst out laughing.
Ian left and that was the last of him I ever saw. It happened that in the wee hours of 2 a.m., being highly intoxicated with alcohol and bhang, Ian was run over by a truck as he was crossing a highway next to the college. Not until two days elapsed that we realized he was no more. At his burial, his visage was beyond recognition. The words ‘Jah bless!’ echoed in my mind as he was laid to rest.
I found that unexpected, undeserving, unwarranted, unfair and all kinds of devenustate adjectives. And as life always is, we mourned overtime with numberless questions and somehow, we learnt to live with the pain.
The same unexplainable sorrow engulfs anybody, no matter how hard hearted and tough spirited they are, whenever death of a loved one or anybody they know occurs. Death is a phenomenon that is most mysterious and most perturbing to any living human being.
When Diana the princess of Wales (arguably the world’s favorite princess) died, not only was the world shaken to the core but is still devastating some people today, 22 years later. On the funeral day, an estimated 2.5 billion people around the globe tuned in to television broadcasts.
Iconic singer Whitney Houston passed away in 2012 just before the infamous Grammy awards on February 11. The news of her death not only shook the Grammy’s that year but also the whole world. If you listen to the vocals of Whitney, it would beat any logical sense as to why she would die. Her talent is irreplaceable.
No matter how much negative rumors were attached to Michael Jackson, his death ranked number one on VH1 Classic’s list of 100 Most Shocking Moments in Music. His death caused a surge in traffic online. Google news itself felt the pressure as a result of the searches on the guy. Some Google news users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries relating to Michael Jackson and they were asked to verify whether indeed they were human and not a computer attempting to launch a spam attack. The last time there was such a strain put on the web was in the aftermath of 9/11.
The lives of these individuals are not any more important than any human who passes away, they are just but a demonstration of the ramifying effects of the death of any person on the face of the earth.
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb once said, “Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here’s what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grow longer. Then, when you do remember to miss them again, it’s still with a stabbing pain to the heart. And you have guilt. Guilt because it’s been too long since you missed them last.” I couldn’t agree more. Not from experience but from the realistic aspect of the quotation.
Fredrick Backman, in an excerpt from the narrative, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, says, “People in the real world always say, when something terrible happens, that the sadness and loss and aching pain of the heart will ‘lessen as time passes,’ but it isn’t true. Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.”
The question as to why death has to occur is quite un-answerable, but I find the Christian aspect answering it in the best way possible. Humans die because of sin. The Bible is clear that every person has sinned and that “the wages of sin is death”. The first inhabitants of earth chose to disobey God by eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. In choosing disobedience, they separated themselves from the source of life. As a consequence, death entered into this world even though it was not part of God’s original plan for His people. At death, all consciousness ends. The dead person does not know anything and does not do anything. This remains so, until Jesus returns from the clouds at a time no one knows. Then the miracle of resurrection of those who died while righteous will occur. After which, immortality would be imparted and death would be the last enemy to be destroyed. The unrepentant would be resurrected to face judgment and then die again never to exist ever again (annihilation/extinction).
A famous Roman epitaph fatalistically states: “I was not. I was. I am not. I don’t care.” This kind of thought and reasoning is hopeless beyond measure and shouldn’t be the way to perceive life.
Author Susan Cheever wrote: “Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” Death is perhaps “ordinary” in this world of sin, but it was never God’s original intention.
There couldn’t be a better way to put this to a close other than by the fact that, the unconscious nothingness of death separates us from the God of life, yet Jesus’ defeat of death means the saved can look forward to resurrection and living forever.