Death evokes a terrible mix of emotions in us. It creates a hauntingly complex maze of experience when we contemplate it. One day a person is here, gone the next day & then disposed of, even if it is with fanfare as is done in many cultures. The individual bristling with goals, ambitions, and desires gets extinguished in an instant, just like that. The loss is usually overwhelming for surviving family & friends who grapple with the heart-rending loss. Not that gradual death as a result of long-haul sickness or old age gives us any comfort.
Then, the most mysterious of it all is that where the person goes, we have not been able to fathom all by ourselves and no real and authentic messages or concrete information have come from beyond if it exists. We find it hard to accept that their journey was merely a brief one ending in just those brief years. Thus we make up a lot of stories & key into endless philosophies and beliefs to explain their continued existence. That we will discuss later, what troubles me now is how death holds us in its grips so badly that we do not really live, wasting away the little time we have.
The typical person fears death. Yes, it is such an inordinate, gripping terror that looms over him that he hardly lives. This fear affects and to a lesser or greater extent controls everything he does in life from birth to death. This fear is manifest in 3 areas as I have observed:
- Fear of death itself. Even the thought makes people shiver with terror.
- Who will bury me &
- Where will I be buried? This has to do with the location of the final resting place; for some people, it is tied to their status & legacy.
Unless one breaks free from these fears, they will live in bondage all their life. The spectre of Death & all the horrors associated with it will rule the person’s life. Let us discuss these fears and learn how to overcome them.
Fear of death
Death is like a dark evil place that we do not want to go to and which we must do everything possible to avoid and thus we are easily manipulated by mere threats of it. This fear of death is so great and overwhelming that we sometimes find it hard to live life to the fullest, live up to our values in life or have any or pursue our dreams.
It’s ironic, Isn’t it? We do everything in our power to live, not because we love life but because we are afraid to die. It is like staying in the Sitting Room not because you enjoy it, but because you don’t wish to go into the bedroom. Has this happened to you before? Now you get the point.
Another way to illustrate it is a person in an abusive relationship who, although not having the best of time, stays because of the stigma & fear of being single. Contrast this with the person in a super loving relationship & who is staying. These 2 people are in 2 different worlds, right? That is how fear of death prevents us from truly living.
Yes, Death has been rightly called the enemy of mankind, but there is no reason to be afraid of the dead or death itself. As it is now, death is a normal part of life. No one can get out of here alive, so why fear the inevitable? Death is not such a dark place; even the Bible says good things have resulted from it. Did you know that no one can go to heaven without dying? Those who hope to go there should even look forward to death and not be held captive by its mysteries like the rest of us. Lol.
In fact, there are things that are worse than death, such as a terminal illness without proper care. People like Jacob & Job in the Bible wished for death as a result of their suffering.
Take your time to re-examine your religious and philosophical beliefs about death. If what you believe still gives you the chills, know that you haven’t found the answer yet, so keep searching. You know what I know to be the truth? Death is not that evil that should keep us from enjoying life. As soon as you realize this, then you can walk this domineering fear of death out of your life & truly live.
But what about the overt and pervasive display of religious piety all over the place? It doesn’t necessarily reflect how good we are and definitely has nothing to do with living well. It is merely an attempt to deceive God so that when we die, he would receive us into heaven. It is important that we focus on living well and treating others with kindness, rather than putting up a show for the Almighty.
The 2nd & 3rd chains of bondage that Death has on us are closely related. Our main concerns are: ‘Who will bury me & where will I be buried?’ We worry about being buried by the wrong people, in the wrong place.
The typical African, especially from the southern part of Nigeria, comes with the default belief that for him to rest in peace when he dies he must be buried by his kinsmen and in his Village. It is taboo to even contemplate being buried by strangers in another village even if it is in the same Local Government Area. Have you ever given thought to where you would be buried? Sorry, to take you so far, you may not have thought of dying.
Some cultures perpetuate these beliefs of who & where to bury in order to keep people in bondage. During a recent visit with a relative, he expressed great dissatisfaction with our kindred & community. He told me that if he could, he would rather not do anything with them. He said quoting him directly ‘suo bula ewu’ & he sighed bitterly. (If not for death). Then turning to me he said with some bit of envy ‘ke anu buruoma, nde kanu liga badu’. (Your case is good, your people bury their dead).
He loathed the greed & avarice that dominated the kindred. It has turned to ‘dog eat dog’ with several accusations of witchcraft and spiritistic manipulations added to the terrible chieftaincy tussle we have going on. You must walk on eggshells when dealing with people & because of this internal & some other external political squabbles, close friends are suddenly torn apart for being aligned differently. What is the community when there is no social cohesion? The burden can break the sturdiest of men; my relative was broken at the time we spoke. (Two groups buried people in my home area, the person’s relatives or religious body or both combined. His religious affiliations weren’t that strong to handle all burial rites but mine is & that was what he referred to when he said I was in better stead).
I recently met some people from home & when they found out I had not been there for a while, they laughed & told a mutual friend not to worry, that I would be forced to do so someday. I just laughed, if only they knew that what living well does not allow me to do, that the fear of death, of self or of others cannot do it, they would have held the sneering remarks.
When a person dies, he returns to the dust from where he was made. Does it matter whether that happens where his ancestors 1st settled? No dead person can help himself. The Ikwerre people say that ‘to be buried is the only good thing you can do for the dead’. Does it matter who does ‘the good’ of burial?
Death makes us quake with fear and anger. That notwithstanding, we must confront and overcome the fears associated, including all the pictures of darkness & evil & torment so that we can live purposefully with dignity and be directed by our values. Please, stop allowing the fear of death to drive you to live a compromising life of fear. Don’t let the fear of death stop you from reaching your full potential.
Make peace with yourself and know the condition of the dead, otherwise, you will be stuck in fear of death your whole life and be stuck in meaningless associations with family & villages & be dead although you live. Take control of your life and start living with purpose and meaning today.
Thank you sir for this enlightening article
i concur that death should not be that evil that should keep us from enjoying life. With my Bible-based understanding, I do not fear death. My only concern and prayer is that God should keep us alive to train our children. Thanks brother