There is one thing I am certain you do not like — dying. Nobody does. Like you, I hate dying. But one thing I hate more than dying is writing about dying. My hatred for writing about dying is mostly because I don’t know how. I belief that to write about anything properly one need to experience it. And since I haven’t died yet, it’s a heavy cross to carry.
I find it easier to write what I know. Even though my imagination is endless, experience always trumps —not Donald — it.
In the Sixth letter on Eight Letters to a Young Writer by Teju Cole, T.C advised the young writer— Aburo— to write about home. In other words, he should write from his personal experience. I long to do the same about dying but I can’t, because going by that rule, only dead people can write efficiently about death. They have seen it all, so they have the authority to write from the other side. But the problem is, how can they publish what they write? Do they write for dead readers or for the living?
I hate sympathizing with the bereaved because I usually do not know what to say.
Is it okay to say the lord gives and the Lord takes?
Is it insensitive to say don’t cry you have to be strong?
Is it okay to pray for the soul of the departed to find forgiveness and peace? — I find this difficult to do. The dead is dead, isn’t forgiveness a gift only for the living?
However, as unthinkable as it is, it’s a paradox that the older one gets the closer he/she gets to dying. So we can safely say living is dying? That dying and living are actually two sides of the same coin? Opposite ends of a transparent glass? That by living, we are actually dying, and every birthday we mark only brings us closer to our deathday so we end up with less days to live than when we started living?
Maybe, if we accept this truth we will live differently. We will make better choices and learn to accept the consequences of our actions.
Our society fear death. It’s an abomination to make conversations on death. Christianity — The Nigerian remix— will often pray ‘I shall not die’. Death is treated as something alien, an abnormality when in reality, death isn’t. Could it be we are here on earth to die? That living is a preparation for dying?
Mariechidi wrote about Idiagbonya Osarere Debora on her post Work in progress: For Debbie, Rest In Peace. Debbie was diagnosed with a stage IV Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Metastasized Breast Cancer— a fancy name for a deadly disease. But instead of caving in, she decided to document her fight with cancer via Instagram. And when she took a bow, she left having touched countless lives. The strength she showed in the face of death was outstanding. A strength that I reverence and pray to have.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
She accepted her fate and spent her last days being selfless. I often wonder if I could do that. If I can spend my energy refueling others instead of clinging to the last iota of life. But what if I leave suddenly, without saying goodbye, without the time to be prepared like Debbie? What if you leave too?
There is a page in Stephen Covey’s book; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that chokes me. Stephen advised we begin everything with the end in mind. And he wrapped his hands around my neck with this;
In your mind eye, picture yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express love and appreciation for your life.
As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended — children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second is one of your friends. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.
Now think deeply, what would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?
What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?
I will recommend you do what Stephen recommended. Take a piece of paper, write out what you want these people to say. It sounds scary, but that’s the way to clarity. That’s learning to be accountable. That’s really living, because you live with the end in mind. You go about your daily activities with the consciousness that you are one of several billion people in the world, but to some people, you are the world. And if by living, we are actually dying, why don’t we live like people who know they are dying?
If you found out you were dying,
would you be nicer, love more, try something new?
Well, you are.
We all are.