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Death may be the greatest of all human blessings

– Socrates

Lest from the beginning, you think of this as a writing of gloom, I intend not to remind you of the inevitable obvious: death is at the door – it’s a matter of when. But quiet! Can’t we talk about death with smiling faces? (Maybe not smiling faces, but certainly not with fretful ones, either.) In the end, you’d realise that this article is more of the now than of an unknown future.

In the sixth chapter of the book of Revelation (from the Bible), Death is portrayed as the last of four horsemen with a pale horse. Something striking, but not so obvious, is Death personified as a living being. It’s not just a figurative statement – true enough, life and death are so entangled that we can hardly distinguish. It’s the one thing we are so conversant with yet being total strangers to.

Flogging the Dead Horse
The horse may be dead, but flog, we shall oblige. It may well be the most popular topic written about. From the ancient Book of the Dead (c. 1550 BCE) from Egypt, Plato, William Shakespeare, Voltaire, Napoleon Bonaparte, , George Orwell, Mark Twain, Mahatma Gandhi, etc – the list is endless. Volumes and volumes, yet we hardly tire from these.

Why? Somehow, there’s this paradoxical anxiety of wanting to know what death looks like without wanting to experience it ourselves. And for each writing, something new can be learnt. But with all of these, there’s still a huge void of oblivion left to be filled. Why?

Too Close For Comfort?
I once heard someone say that we’re unable to see atoms because they’re too close to us. Likewise death, it’s often imperceivable that we may not recognise it in the face because it is right in front of our noses. In fact, almost all of us at one time or another may have considered ourselves unable to die like others who do. I, myself, once did think so.

As the years go by, and more and more people we know die also, the hard truth starts sinking in. Although only minute few, some adults still have have the concealed belief of immortality even on earth. Fine! Whatever!! But no matter what we think, there remains a strange fear or anxious association with the thought of our own deaths. Why?

What Are You Afraid Of?
We are not strangers to painful experiences; we all have a bit of our own sufferings. Is this why we fear dying? No. Even if we were afforded the most painless type of death to take us away now, majority would decline the offer vehemently. Rather than the experience, it’s the aftermath of the experience of death that we are all wary of.

Breathing stops and I be no more. It’s an instant loss of all we can comprehend having ties to while being alive. Maybe once in a while you’ve really reasoned the “loss”; it leaves you with cold sweat and palpitations. Whether the loss be on the side of our loved ones, our own, or both, this unquantifiable realisation is built up into our bodily system which we carry each day.

Unforgettable Me
There was a time when the world was in existence without you and there’ll be a time when it will continue without you. But it’s an ever-going party – why must the music stop? Entangled between life and death is a time frame by which we are built to achieve a set target. Life is thus generous, but only once.

I’m cracking my head to see why it’s just once and why the occurrence is hardly predictable. I’ll end this with an analogy from the mango tree. In the tropics, this tree has abundant blossoming fruits following the rainy season. To pluck the fruits, there are two broad options: climb the tree or employ the use of sticks or stones. In the course of fruit plucking, leaves will definitely fall down. It matters not whether the leaf is new or old, it will come down when cut. Some other leaves will be spared but eventually come down when they’re old.

Life is the same everywhere else. New or old, young or elderly, it matters not: when we’re cut, we’ll come down. Some will fall down after a robust accumulation of years. Others will come down in their youthful greenness. Some will come down even faster than they got up the tree. But old or young, the leaves will be of service to the point of death. Are you?

Luke O. Ogar