We are all mortals. That means that at some point in our lives, we will take our last breath of fresh air. With each passing day, we all move closer to six feet under. And sometimes we prepare for this day. We write wills leaving behind our wealth to those we leave behind, some of us dig our graves in advance. There’s a man who, on testing HIV positive, sold all his property and went to ‘enjoy his last moments’ on the sandy coastal beaches (his reasoning was that once he was dead, he didn’t care how he got home to his burial place). But death avoided him like plague, and 3 years later he returned home with nothing to his name and lived the rest of his miserable life in his mother’s outdoor kitchen. There are three schools of thought to his death- HIV/AIDS since he wasn’t on medication, living in his mother’s kitchen which is a taboo for a married man, or the misery of having once been a millionaire who stayed in fancy beach hotels now sleeping next to the earthen fireplace in his mother’s kitchen.

In its expectedness, death is still unexpected. You know it’s coming, but you don’t see it coming. I could drop dead after finishing this piece; you may be spending your last moments reading an article on death. We never know. Nothing appreciates both the expectedness and the unexpectedness of death more than the series ‘1000 Ways to Die’. Every day we fight a new war against germs, toxins, injury, illness, catastrophe and calamity. The fact that we survive at all is a miracle. Because every day we live, we face a 1000 ways to die! Each episode of the series begins with that voice-over, and it couldn’t be any truer. However, it is not the unexpectedness of death that makes it painful.

Life moves on when one is gone. Yes, but things are never the same. You can marry a new wife, there are parents who give birth to many children in case some die ‘early’, people make new friends every day. Replacements can always be found. But there is a void that only the departed could fill. A way they made you laugh hard, a smile that melted away your worries, a reassuring hug that took away your sorrows, a voice that made you believe everything would be okay, a fantasy that only them could fulfill. In a million people, only they could make you feel a certain way. And then you have that taken away from you. There’s no way to prepare for that. Physically? Maybe. Emotionally? Never!

You remember your last moments together, and wish you had had one more before they ‘went’. You wonder if they knew how much they meant to you in spite of the fights you had, you even wonder if the fights were necessary at all. You feel their presence everywhere every time, but can’t get to see their beautiful faces. That warm touch on your shoulder is now just imaginary. Nature walks that you enjoyed so much with the deceased no longer feel like nature walks without them, but more like wandering about aimlessly. Staying late at night to chat feels like being addicted to the internet.

And the reality of this emptiness hits on two occasions; when the body is being lowered into the ground. To others, it is just a dead person being laid to rest. To you, it is your dreams, laughter, warmth, a part of you being taken six feet under forever. And days after the burial is over and the wailers who clouded your pain with their screams and shrieks have left and the silence takes over the homestead and you are left to nurse the emptiness alone.

That’s when death becomes painful.

To all those who have lost a loved one, may the loving memories of the departed always bring you strength, comfort and peace. So live your life to the fullest. Show love to those you care about. Make peace with those you think you don’t care much about. That way, when they are gone, you don’t live wishing for a second chance (that will never come). Instead of mourning their death, you will be celebrating their life.

By Winston

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