DEATH: Be on the Alert

By Fr Pat. Amobi Chukwuma

Death is a common phenomenon. It is a topic that is rarely discussed by the living. It is an invisible force and mystery beyond the control of humanity. Many people, if not all, have phobia for death. The other day I introduced a discussion centered on death before my bosom friend.

He cautioned me and asked me to change the topic. According to him, even though he wants to go to heaven, he is not in a hurry to die. We laughed it off. I hope death did not hear what he said; otherwise the unwanted visitor will visit him soon.

Death says that unless we welcome him heartily, he will continue to visit us unexpected. Who would book an audience with death for us, so that we can dialogue with him? A handsome reward awaits any volunteer.

Scientists are unable to subject death to laboratory experiment. They have produced vaccines against various illnesses and diseases. Even vaccine against the latest COVID-19 pandemic has been produced. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine is still doubtful. Many believe that it has serious side effects which may manifest sooner or later. Personally, I am not in a hurry to take the vaccine.

I challenge the scientists to produce vaccine that will stop death entirely. The philosophers and theologians who philosophized and theologized over death have fallen victims of death. Anyone who succeeds in conquering death shall be considered the greatest man in heaven and on earth.

Such a person can challenge God in a debate. Can the creature challenge the Creator? Let’s watch and see till the world comes to an end.

To be on the alert call for vigilance and attention. The modern banking system has made the term ‘alert’ a domestic vocabulary. Once you deposit money into your bank account or withdraw from it, the process reports in your mobile phone text message or in your e-mail.

To buttress my point of departure, the incumbent governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano, is popularly called Alert Governor. On the 25th day of each month, the civil servants in the State receive alerts of their monthly salaries. It follows that if the governor of Anambra State is known as Alert-Governor, then all the citizens of the State in question should be known as Alert-Anambrarians.

If you go to Rome, you do like the Romans. Similarly, if you reside in Anambra State, you ought to be alert in all ramifications. No wonder Anambra State is widely recognized as the safest State in Nigeria. Sadly of recent, insecurity seems to be returning to Anambra State. Let us all be alert because the agents of darkness are gradually infiltrating into the State in order to cause mayhem and portray the hitherto safest state in the country in a bad mood.

Alert can be positive or negative. When you receive an alert that someone surprisingly paid a reasonable amount of money into your bank account, you will leap for joy. On the other hand, negative alert brings sadness. For instance, a certain man, who lives from hand to mouth, struggled over the years to save fifty thousand naira in his bank account which was nearing dormancy.

The mobile banking system has really brought banking and transactions at one’s door-step. Hence anyone can now stay at the comfort of his or her home to do business. So, it happened that the poor man mentioned above wanted to buy recharge card worth five hundred naira from his mobile account. By the error of his mind and hand he typed N50000 instead of N500 in the space provided for filling the amount required.

Then he pressed ‘sent.’ In a twinkling of an eye, he got a red alert that his recharge card of fifty thousand naira was successful. He was also informed that he has emptied his bank account. At first he thought that he was dreaming. Instantly he rushed to the water sink in his room and washed his face several times with cold water. Also he poured some on his head to cool his tensed mind.

Then he came back to view the alert once more. It dawned on him that he has really emptied his meager bank savings by carelessly buying N50000 recharge card. His blood pressure rose to the highest point. He shouted, “God forbid!

How can I buy recharge card worth N50000 when I have not paid my house rent and my children’s school fees?” He fainted immediately. He was rushed to the nearest hospital where he was admitted and placed on oxygen. By God’s grace he was bodily revived but his mental faculty is yet to return.

When I was growing up, it was popularly stated that travelling by air is the safest means of transport. In those my childish years I was among the children waving at aeroplane on the air, shouting and asking it to drop bags of money for us.

As a child also I thought that one can fly into heaven where God lives by means of aeroplane. Sadly, my earlier assumptions changed when I traveled by air for the first time. I was anxiously waiting on my seat for the plane to take off, when one of the crew members started demonstrating for us the safety measures during flight. These called for alertness.

She explained the different ways of escaping from the plane during air mishap. On listening to and watching the demonstrations, my blood pressure rose so high. I signed myself with the Sign of the Cross thrice and silently prayed, “Lord, into your hands I commend my body and spirit in this journey by air.” After the alert directives, the pilot advised us through microphone system to tighten our belts and get ready for take-off. I did so with others.

Unfortunately, I nearly entered into coma during the take-off because I thought the plane was falling into abyss. I came back to life when the plane began cruising through the air. At last it landed safely at my destination. That was for me a little resurrection from the dead. Since then I travel by air only when need be.

My people say that anyone surrounded by enemies must always be alert and vigilant. Human life has no duplicate. The rate at which innocent people are killed daily in Nigeria calls for extra alertness. It is no longer safe to enter forests anyhow for fear of bloody herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits.

These nefarious elements have transformed forests into their abode and business centers. Farmers are afraid to go to their farms nowadays for fear of being attacked and killed in cold blood. Travelers are ambushed here and there and forcefully detained in the forest until the family or acquaintance pays huge ransom.

Often the kidnappers, bandits and herdsmen kill their victims even after collecting the ransom. Traveling today at night is very risky. Those agents of darkness sew clothes with darkness and wear them from head to toe.

For me, insecurity is the greatest problem in our country Nigeria today and not coronavirus as such. If the Federal and State Governments can fight insecurity as they fight against COVID-19, Nigerians will start again to sleep with two eyes closed.

As of now, many of us, if not all, sleep either with one eye closed and one opened or sleep with both eyes opened. Last night I lay down in bed to sleep. I was holding my Rosary beads in my right hand and a machete on the left hand for any eventuality. When I woke up at midnight to answer emergency call of nature, I found out that I was lying down on the machete itself while the Rosary was praying itself beside me.

I laughed at myself. However I was alert before I slept off. God should provide the rest. The Holy Scripture says, “Unless the Lord guards the city, in vain does the guard stay awake” (Psalm 127:1). God helps those who help themselves. No sane person fights a snake empty handed. Therefore we should carry our spiritual and material weapons always.

In addition Saint Paul advises “Our battle is not against human forces but against the rulers and authorities and their dark powers that govern this world. We are struggling against the spirits and supernatural forces of evil. Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that in the evil day, you may resist and stand your ground, making us of all your weapons” (Ephesians 6:12 – 13). The Lord Jesus himself admonishes us in these words: “Be ready, dressed for service, and keep your lamps lit” (Luke 12:35). The green snake in the green grass is very dangerous. Let us be alert, pray and shine our eyes.