My Concept Of Death

My Concept Of Death

One particular Sunday ago, I bought a calendar almanac from my Catholic church.  I never planned to, I sort of did it on impulse.  It was an almanac of the martyrs of the early church.  It vividly displayed the many ways the early disciples of the Lord died: Stephen was stoned; Peter was crucified on a cross upside down; Paul and James the Great were beheaded; Matthew and Thomas were killed with spears; James the Less was stoned and clubbed to death; Simon, Jude and Andrew were crucified (Andrew being crucified on an X-shaped wooden cross); Bartholomew was beaten and skinned alive; Matthias was stoned and then beheaded; Mark was tied to a horse and dragged to death on the ground; Luke was hanged on an olive tree; John was banished to the isle of Patmos in Ephesus where he died a natural death after being cast into a cauldron of boiling oil of which he came out miraculously unscathed.

Looking at that calendar almanac has always held a fascination for me. The deaths of those saints were definitely glorious ones being displayed on the almanac.  But death is a painful thing to undergo, especially for a divine cause.

We all know that there are two main ways of dying: physically and spiritually.  Most human beings, for one reason or the other, prefer to die physically than spiritually.  An internal death is like a destruction of the soul.  Something like a mental wound makes one feel like dying.  The Bible said that you are dead if you are not in Christ.  A very devastating incident known to the individual alone can cause him emotional emptiness.

Physical deaths range from strangulation, hanging and poisoning to all sorts of accidents and murder.  In Guatemala, there was news of women, specifically young girls, being kidnapped and killed after undergoing sexual violence.  Military rule is still known to exist in Burma.  Writers, actors, two students who wrote poetry and the most popular stand-up comedian in the country rest unjustly in prison because of the brutal and suffocating rule of Burmese military.

Professor Wole Soyinka said that the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.  One dies if one cannot stand up against suppressed, oppressive and repressive rule of any type, kind or nature.  One dies if one cannot fight for one’s fundamental human rights.  If a legitimate life is not lived, one dies.  Someone was nice enough to tell me that Nigerians are persons, not human beings.  Nigerians are merely existing, not living.  Hunger and poverty are prevalent in the minds of Nigerians, materially rich or poor.  The psycho system of the black man generally is cluttered with evil, and this makes death a profitable venture.  Professor Soyinka rubs it in well at the tail end of his preface to his prison notes when he said: In any people that submit willingly to the ‘daily humiliation of fear’, the man dies.

The Bible told us that death was neither God’s doing nor God’s invention.  It was our sin that created death.  We die when we disunite and helplessly allow depression set in, and our deaths can come to us either physically or spiritually or both, depending on our different destinies. (Some of us do not believe in fate for then we would realise that we are not in control of our own lives).  We die when we pretend to be happy, for pretence of any sort never lasts.  Living a lie right from biological birth makes one a living dead.

Concepts of death spring up from everywhere. This is my concept.  Death in a way can be a wonderful thing if it makes a positive impact on particular communities.  But death is a terrible thing when unexpected and uninvited.  Professor Chinua Achebe in his book Arrow of God uttered these two proverbs: “When Suffering (Death) knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool”; “The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.”

For the martyrs of the early church, the only sin they had was their flesh, for their death is an after-life.  Jesus Christ made sure of that.  Dying for them is a glorious act, a final fulfilment, an accomplishment.  But our case is different.  Sometimes (if not very often) we say to ourselves: “I am not afraid of death, but I don’t want to die.”  How ironic!

12 thoughts on “My Concept Of Death” by Emmanuella Nduonofit (@Emmanuella-Nduonofit)

  1. Hmmm! Emmanuella, you are one gifted writer.

  2. hmmmm you are even making me even more confused about and disinterested in talk of DEATH. good piece

  3. It is true, what one believes in is strong enough to shield one against depression over death. I once thought of a situation where one person in one religion is sbout to kill another person of a different religion. Now the belief of the assailant is that if he kills the infidel, paradise will be his reward and virgins, his gifts. The victim presents himself to be slaughtered because he also believes that if he dies, he will make heaven and recieve a golden crown. The assailant strikes the latter. The man dies with a smile on his face and the assailant moves on with a smile on his face. Both of them are convinced that they will make paradise!

    What one believes in, whether true or false, for we may not be too sure wether we are right or wrong– what one believes in, will go a long way to prepare one to face death or conquer it if possible.

    Good musing, my dear Emmanuella.

    1. I thank you, dear Jeff, for chipping in this ‘addendum’ for me. I forgot to speak about how Muslims see death. Danke schon!

  4. Physical death seems to be the better type of death, after all. More to be feared are the other kinds of death that leave us empty and ‘dead’ whilst still breathing.
    Thank you for this, Emmanuella.

  5. @jeff please dont make me loose the enormous respect i have for you. your misguided conception of the view of death and dying in Islam is very annoying, moreso because you are an intellectual i respect. Muslims(enlightened ones) do not see death that way! its all a misconception, just many other stereotypes we keep in Nigeria. please lets be cautious as writers, the pen is a mighty SWORD!

    1. Em, @xikay, I had to return back online because of Jeff’s response here as well. I wish to correct the ‘addendum’ I’ve accepted. Before I jump into anything, I like to hold onto facts. The concept of death and dying in Islam should and must be thoroughly and exhaustively investigated before it is shared. I have Muslim friends, so I know what I’m saying. I wish to remove the word ‘religion’ from Jeff’s response in MY ‘addendum’. It’s very implicating and can rouse unwanted and unintended panic here and elsewhere. I didn’t bring religion into this, and even if I did, I spoke of my own ‘religion’. I hate talking about ‘religion’; to me, it’s a horrible, terrible topic. Bigotry sets in and chaos ensues. I wish NEVER EVER to be the instigator of such an ugly thing, please! :( It is very obvious here that my concept of death centred more on the human factor, not a religious factor. Geez, anyone from any ‘religion’ can decide to accept death in any circumstance, it is very situational in nature. I’m open-minded and broad-minded when I think, and I am cautious, too, attentive and apprehensive, if need be. I speak for myself here, gals and guys!

  6. Nice writing, Emmanuella. I enjoyed the flow…

  7. Somethings we can’t fully understand, until we come to that state of perfect knowledge, Scriptures assure us that much. Well done Emmanuella.

  8. hey, love the piece tho i think there is a distinction between what u here refer to as death and “dying”. we as humans living solely for material gain and consciousness are DYING and not dead. if Wole Soyinka in the piece you quoted IMPLIES that those keeping silent in the face of tyranny are dead, then i beg to defer. they are dying or as some will spiritually say, “…standing in a fallING posture (instead of steady and upright). but then i don’t know your POV, to you is it the same thing, death and dying?

  9. PS:i like stuff like this that make me think deep thoughts that embrace and transcend logic. kudos.

  10. @emmanuella, you have really done well to make this one clear. religion is a very tender egg, lets not crack it here. i asked a moslem about the real concept of death in islam and he told me that if a christian is killed extra-judiciously, all his sins are forgiven and the killer will carry the sins. in islam death is not doled out without due process of sharia… fanatics are different…REMEMBER the pugilists and christian crusaders

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