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Winifred Adebayo: This Thing Called Death

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How would you like to die?’ I asked my friend as he drove us down to the city where we would attend a funeral. I had just arrived from another town, and while we reminisced about the life of our lost loved one, this question escaped my lips.
‘Hmmmmmmm, Winnie, I don’t know. I think in my sleep after I have achieved all I want and I’m ready to go’ he replied. I nodded, smiled and changed the conversation topic.

‘The dress code is black and white’, another friend of mine yelled as we got ready for the funeral. Three of us ladies were discussing make-up, and different types of foundation. That was our own way of getting away from thinking about the ceremony we were preparing for. But that yelling ‘black and white’ knocked us all back to our reality; someone dear to our hearts is dead and he isn’t coming back.
The harsh reality: that we would never talk or laugh again on this side or is it the thought that all we had left was memories? And that the passing of time might even dare to blur those memories. That yelling brought back what we were trying so hard to ignore. As we all got quiet she continued by saying ‘The family said they would appreciate us all dressing in black and white’. Cold silence took over the atmosphere.

At this point, I drifted away in my mind. I was fighting hard to dig into my past memories. I wanted to remember so badly the very last time I didn’t know that death existed. A part of me surely felt, I would find something really happy. Maybe I would feel the way I felt when I still thought everything in life was static and would last forever. Maybe I would see my face, and treasure the look I had, just before I knew death existed…. Just maybe it could be my happy place, to return to in my mind, each time death stings.

I watched movies as a child that showed people die, but it didn’t really hurt this much while watching them or maybe I just didn’t believe death in movies. At least the only way I could get away from the horror of watching the Nigerian movie ‘Oracle’ was the repeated reminder from my aunties that none of it was real. I was still struggling in my mind to find that face, day, time, memory, anything at all! Just anything…before I realized that death existed.

It was all mangled in my mind. Memories blurred into each other. Nothing was distinct; I could barely focus on something in particular. I couldn’t find anything. When I drifted back to the present, I re-joined the conversation going on around me. It was about highlighting the contours of the face! Huh! (I know right), but it unconsciously helped all of us mask the pain in our minds.

Maybe we are born to know death is bound to happen; just like no one teaches a newborn how to suck from his/her mother’s breast or a feeding bottle. It’s a harsh reality we run away from as much as we can: ignore it and ignore it, till it’s not ignorable anymore. We even try to protect the little ones around us from same. We want them to enjoy one more year, one more month, or one more week. My goodness! Even an extra hour would be great before they realize and accept life comes with pain and tears. Every child deserves the initial few years of living in that fantasy. Even at that, not every child gets that.

So many of us are like my friend. We have this script in our heads that states, when death should occur, what age is appropriate, how the death should occur, etc. We even have these scripts unconsciously for our loved ones. Of course, we want to have them around for as long as we want. But how often does this movie we create actually play out the way we want it to? How often are people really ‘ready’ before they die?

The bomb blast, plane crashes, terminal diseases, gun shots, car accidents etc. still takes people that are not ready to die. The vacuum created leaves those left behind with heart aches and unanswered questions.
Just like well-written article ‘Live Full & Die Empty’ by Seun Tuyo where she correctly states “The reality of this is that you will die someday”, we may never know the day or the time, all we can hold on to is NOW.

So I charge you and myself: love God, yourself, and everyone around you like it would be your last chance to do so. Treasure the smiles and the good times, forgive and stay clear of bitterness, lean on each other when it gets rough, and savor every good memory you create. Be innovative, affect your environment positively, challenge those around you positively, give, share, and explore life.

LIVE! LIVE! Live fully every day. As Dr. Munroe  said ‘Die Empty’ and ‘Rob the grave’, because you would have exhausted all you had and were able to give the world.
Have a fabulous weekend ahead!

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