Death And The Vanity Of Life: Tribute To My Departed Colleagues

February is, perhaps, not the best month to be talking of death being just the second month of the year, but the recent demise of two of my colleagues, Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Rotimi Olugbuyi in a most agonizing and traumatizing circumstances, has left me with no choice but to meditate on death and the real essence of life. What is the essence of life? Why are we here in the first place? Does all the stress and effort that people put into life worth it after all? A man spends almost 25 years of his life, if not 30 in school. Of course generally after, he works. In the process, he is married with (or without) kids, same cycle again with their kids, and parents see their grandchildren.  Well satisfied with what they have achieved so far (on the average) and then they pass on…Is that it? Is this truly the real value of life?  Does it really worth it putting so much energy into life when you are not even sure of your exit date? How do you explain a world where people plan, labour and work so hard only to pass on when the harvest is ripe? Why should men commit so much energy and resource into living when they are not even sure of what becomes of them the next moment? Why do men get involved in un-ending struggles to make ends meet in life when at the end of it no one gets out of life alive?

Death is the last crowning glory of every man’s sojourn on earth. The fool will die. The wise will die. The rich will die and the poor will also not escape the cold grip of death. The thing about death is that it will come when it will come. Some die at birth.  Some die in their prime. Some die in their old age. Some die in their sleep while others die bathing. Some die in five-star hospitals while others die in miserable dispensaries. Some die unsung while others are celebrated even in death. Some die plotting against death while some are trapped in the cobweb of death for some inexplicable reasons. That is death for you! It is so ruthless that it gave no room for negotiation between itself and its victims. Except for, perhaps, King Hezekiah in the Holy Bible, who God gave the luxury of re-negotiating his exit date, death daily moves round the world, with so much pride and arrogance, to pluck from among men whom it wants.

Death meets man everywhere. It is procured by every instrument, and in all chances, and enters through many doors. To some, death comes by violence and secret influence while to others it comes by the aspect of a star and the scent of a mist, by the emissions of a cloud and the meeting of a vapour, by the fall of a chariot and the stumbling at a stone. Others encounter death through a full meal or an empty stomach, by watching at the wine or by watching at prayers, by the sun or the moon, by a heat or a cold, by sleepless nights or sleeping days. Others are brought down by through water frozen into the hardness and sharpness of a dagger, or water thawed into the floods of a river, by a hair or a raisin, by violent motion or sitting still.

There is some truth to the old saying that there are only two days in a man’s life of which he could actually determine or do nothing about:  the day a man is born and the day a man passes on. Everyone experiences death. Death and dying are an inevitable part of human existence. Some people know ahead of time when their death will occur. For instance, those suffering from terminal illnesses, when diagnosed ahead of time, allows its victim to set his or her affairs in order, make relationships right, and say goodbye to loved ones. In this case, every person involved has a chance to gradually adjust and make peace with death, as much as possible. However, not everyone has this chance. Many deaths occur suddenly, like the case of my friend, Toyin and her husband Rotimi.  Death can, and often does, strike without warning.

One thing that is quite clear is that no one is actually sure of tomorrow. The only thing we can count on is today. Is it, therefore, not strange that many go to any extent to acquire wealth, power, influence and all sorts of ephemeral material possessions? Some enter into occultic covenants, whose terms might be eventually injurious to their generations yet unborn, just to remain relevant in a world where people forget you immediately you are gone. Our country, today, groans under the evil consequences of the actions and inactions of yesterday’s (apology to Dr. Rueben Abati) and today’s men of power. The treasury is daily being looted at the three tiers of governments, across the country, by men and women who are entrusted with the onerous task of safeguarding the commonwealth. The private sector is equally not immune from the activities of shameless men and women whose god is money. If it is true that he is actually guilty of the pension scam, pray me, what does the embattled Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina want to do with the sum of over N15 billion he is being alleged to have corruptly cornered?

The Holy Bible through the book of Ecclesiastes aptly summarises the sojourn of man on earth when Solomon, perhaps, the wisest king ever, refers to life as vanity. Nothing but the grasping of the wind! The real essence of life is not in living only for ourselves, our dreams but in sharing our lives with others. True riches lie in the number of lives one has been able to touch while on earth. The mansions that men build are not as important as the men that are built for it is the latter that would determine the fate of the mansions built. If only leaders of Third World countries would take counsel in the summation of King Solomon about the vanity of life, perhaps, their people would not have to grapple with so much misery in their various countries. Leaders, and followers alike, who relish in cornering the commonwealth for personal ends, should remember that we came to this world with nothing and will absolutely return with nothing. Individuals that daily live lives of worries and anxieties to the detriment of their health, need to take things easy because life will eventually go on with or without them. Those that engage in all manner of wickedness should remember the day that they will stand naked before the judgment seat of their creator. Every man, irrespective of status, shall one day stand before God in judgment. Just think about this!

As for my departed colleagues, one would like to remind mourning family members, friends, loved ones and colleagues of the philosophical words of legendary Williams Shakespeare in  Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once”. Adieu Rotimi and Toyin Olugbuyi!

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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