“Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die” – Amelia Burr
A few days ago, I was taking a trip from the heart of the city to a suburb. The road was busy and narrow – and full of herculean pot-holes. Well, I had been on many like that so, no “biggy”. It was to be another ordinary journey – but that soon changed. I was in for a low-budget James Bond flick that would leave everyone around me sober – me inclusive.
The driver of the 4×4 in front of me had suddenly discovered a pot-hole in front of him. He panicked and had cranked too hard on the wheel while asking too much of his brakes. The tires locked at an angle and the vehicle’s suspensions sprung violently and noisily as the car screeched mortally across the road; writing something in a language only the gods could read.
After a tsunamic cocktail of adrenalin, very loud screeching, wild tilting and thick-white smoke, he was finally safe. I had witnessed a similar incident along a Lagos drag – but with “terminal” consequences. The fully loaded car ahead of mine had spun off in the rain – into the divider-column in the road. It was a pensive scene.
There’s this story of a man who tried to get a bargain off a coffin salesman. After haggling for a while, the salesman ran out of patience and said “Oga! Na because I know your fada before him die. Biko, make we leaf am for that price. Ness time, e go less”. How was he sure there would ever be a “ness time”?
A man once said “the idea is not to live forever, but to create something that will”. A footballer was one day asked what he would ask God if he ever met him face to face. His answer was shocking – you usually don’t have to think much for such replies. He said “nothing for myself but good health for all my friends”. Whatever happened to winning the league, or money, or power? I guess he understood a little more; there is absolutely nothing in life that will not pass with it!
Stories have it that the soul of a newly deceased looks back briefly before beginning its quest into the afterlife – never to look back again. It looks back and asks if it was all worth it. It looks back over a once-private body that is now to become public property – eternally confined to a 3.5 x 8 x 6ft earth-hole. “Can I at least take my Cartier compass-watch?”, “Will my staff stick with my policies?”, “Will my spouse re-marry?” It asks a myriad of questions, but they say it only takes a second before it reaches its conclusion: life is vain, life is worthless, life is short – unless you spend it building something that will out-live you. Was it all for nothing? Only in death shall we truly know. It’s on this premise I make bold to call death THE ULTIMATE BEGINNING! We can never conclusively value a life until it is over. Many men have traded their 64000-sq-foot mansions for shallow graves – those were the lucky ones. Some rich folk don’t even get a decent burial – jets plunge in the sea everyday!
Some people spend their lives amassing subjects, slaves and dominating the earth. Such people – if afforded a gradual death – suddenly discover that they were too pre-occupied with imposing themselves to raise a capable successor. They made followers of their neighbours – not leaders – forgetting that the warden is as much a slave as the inmate. The only way to live full and “dominate the earth” is to ensure you have people who take delight in “tending your garden” – not people who were conscripted to do so. I’ve not found that one word to describe life with, so I use “crazy”. It is such that some people would never find fulfillment in anything but refuse disposal. Why vehemently convert the medically inclined step-son while forcing the singer of a son into politics? What happens when you die? Our governor’s office suddenly becomes a club-house!
Here is my sober verdict: Whatever lives on earth dies (even Gggggggggggggrandpa Methuselah)! Whatever lives in the mind lives forever! I have found that while life (on earth) is once, its true beauty is not in doing things once. It’s in doing them time and time again – each time with increased dexterity. It’s not just enough to do something noble once – habits must be made of noble deeds. Train your successor to be better than you. Help someone realize their potential. Make someone feel special. Be there when people need you. Provoke the leader in the depressed orphan. But, above all, have a vision that people can identify with.
Trust me, when you peep at the earth a few million years from now, you’d find “earth-you” still living.