A Eulogy to Death (Expanded from conventional African wisdom)

We are born to die – if not now then later. In other words, we live to die. Death is the common destiny of man – all men no matter of what race, sex, age, status or the god they serve. Whether one likes it or not, one will face Death ultimately. It is only a matter of time. There is no escaping it, even for the man who so loves life and does what he can with the best of science and technology there is in the world in order to live forever. He will die, for all things tend towards Death. It is the natural law of life; all living things possess that characteristic of the ability to die. If it does not die, then it is not alive. Life is simply a preparation for Death. We live to die.

If a foetus is spared from abortion, it must die afterwards. The interval between now that it is alive and when it will die is of no consequence because it must die. Though it tarries, wait… it will come. No force can break the law, no power, no authority. Not even God will dare, for he respects the law he set. He is not a man. He is not a lawbreaker.

When a little child falls sick and receives the best treatment, it will live. That the sickness was leading to Death before does not matter now, but it may matter later for he may not overcome it again. It is healed to die later. Possibly the child may not conquer Death next time, possibly the child may conquer it again. But there is a last time to conquer Death, after that: death! You may cheat Death once, or twice, or even up to a thousand times for the daring, careless, poverty stricken, sickly people, and all others whose state or action puts them in the face of Death continually. Indeed, each day we are alive it is because we luckily escaped Death. You may cheat Death, but Death will at last conquer you. Even if you do not live dangerously, you will die.

The youth… see him strong and proud. ‘I can do anything,’ he boasts, ‘I can subdue anything.’ When he is reminded of Death by anyone or any event, he says to himself that he has a very, very long way to go before he finally succumbs to the inevitable power of Death. But hear Death say in reply to him: ‘Oh foolish one! You are young and strong indeed, but you are naive. Yes, even though I acknowledge your knowledge of the fact that you will someday die – that is impressive considering your age, I must quickly add that it is simplistic. You obviously do not know much about me. Enquire of your fathers about those who never grew up to be fathers themselves before you could tell your left from your right, then you will learn of my might. I have the might of God, for I am the might of God. If you must know, little babe, I am the negative power of the Almighty, the destructive power of the Creator. I am the antonym of his creative ability. I was there when he created life. I suggest you fear me and watch out for me. I can be swift and deadly, for I am Death, the fearless servant of the fearless Master.’

The refined gentleman is not spared. Not even the noblest, healthiest and richest of men. Even the son of God and the priest of God are not exempt from dying. They all will die; they cannot do anything about it. Death does not regard them. It is most dutiful and impartial. That all of our fathers are dead is a testimony of this fact. If all men were like Death, the world would be fully functional and better, for Death, that dutiful servant of God, never slacks in duty, neither does it feign fondness for any favoured fellow. Without seeking reward from him whom has employed its service it always does what is expected of it.

Finally, the elderly. Old, experienced and wise, he thinks he can outwit Death since he has lived up to this period. Not that he is unaware of the efficacy and imminence of death, of course not, but he feels that somehow he has it in him to evade Death. But Death, that clever servant of God, comes subtly, like that ‘serpent of old’. To gain an advantage over a wise man you need to be wise of course. And so Death creeps over to the old man ever silently. The effect is first seen on the skin, for it begins to wrinkle and slacken as Death playfully teases its unsuspecting victim. First, it bit by bit pulls apart the brain cells of the man, setting off a piecemeal but obstinate loss of memory. He gradually forgets how he evaded Death in the past; what is more, he cannot recall the things that decorated him as a sage, and acts no more than a little child. A sport for Death. Then it pulls his bones apart, causing him to bow and shiver in surrender to its unsurpassable strength. And the strength is unsurpassable because nothing can be taken back from Death. What is dead cannot be brought to life again. Sometimes, if the old man proves a stubborn one to deal with, it knocks off his teeth, and may also blind him to teach him a lesson. And then finally, Death steals his life from his body, as the old man inevitably concedes victory.

Oh Death, servant of God, power of the Almighty, we pay homage to you. Those who lack wisdom disregard you, but those whom the Creator has blessed with wisdom count their days. Spare us we pray. Who is man that you should listen to him? You take your orders directly from the Almighty. But we only pray yet, for this is all we can do. Spare us some few more years that we may be well prepared to die, since we know we live for this moment. Let us, we pray, to acquire wealth with which to serve God and humanity, a good name for ourselves and reserved till posterity, and the glory that comes with the whitening of the hair, before you come upon us as a sweet blessing that we may rest from all our labour on earth.

2 thoughts on “A Eulogy to Death (Expanded from conventional African wisdom)” by Emmanuel Ezeagwu (@Ezeagwu)

  1. anak adrian (@anakadrian)

    This is excellent.

  2. @ezeagwu. Nice one, sometimes we need to be reminded of the simple fact that death is inevitable.

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