By Uche Amunike
The year 2019 was not exactly a bad one. As a mother and struggling Nigerian worker in the private sector, life had a way of reminding me sometimes that the saying, 'life is not a bed of roses', is a statement of fact. That notwithstanding, it was a good year. I want at this point, to thank God for His grace which sustained us through the tough times and for the strength to carry on no matter how tough things turned out to be. Of course, surviving in our dear country Nigeria is a miracle in itself. I am truly grateful to God and particularly humbled by his Grace, his mercy and sustenance in spite of all. I thank him for the simple things that make my life meaningful like good health, a sound mind, providence, success in the children's academics and basically, seemingly ordinary things like shelter and having a job I love with a passion. When I count my blessings and name them one after the other, I simply dance with joy, knowing that I am truly blessed.
The Christmas holiday has come and gone and I have had a most amazing time celebrating. For the past twenty seven years, I have spent my Christmas holiday in my hometown, Urualla with my family. It has always been an amazing way of reuniting with family and friends during the yuletide. However, this last Christmas of 2019 was a different ball game all together as the wedding of my younger brother pulled together, my mother, my entire siblings and their families from every corner of the world to the city of Lagos where the wedding was held.
Initially, it was a problem for me planning Christmas for my family because I couldn't imagine how I would spend Christmas outside Urualla. It felt like a tradition was going to be broken. But as the planning of the wedding progressed, it dawned on me at every step that I would have no choice than to end up spending Christmas in Lagos because the wedding was fixed for the 21st day of December.
Well, the wedding turned out to be a huge success and shortly after, it was Christmas. We had the best Christmas celebration ever and just as time always flies, 2019 had come to an end and we saw ourselves already awaiting the new year.
On New Year's eve, Lagos bubbled like never before, but for me, however, it was a day for sober reflection as I tried to play my life as a tape before my mind's eye. I asked myself a lot of questions. The one that reigned supreme in my heart of hearts was, 'what if I didn't make it to 2020'? It was a question I tried so hard to answer, but answers failed me.
I cast my mind back to the uncountable number of burials I attended in 2019. I tried taking a head count of the number of people I personally knew, who died during the course of the year 2019. That was really emotional as I remembered friends and family who I lost along the way. I particularly remembered my first cousin, Nonso who died in July after complications from a Brain Tumour surgery. He was just 32. Fate has a way of playing tricks on people as I woke up on the morning of December 22 to the news that I lost yet another cousin to the bullets of unknown people suspected to be assassins. His car was not taken from him, his phones and laptop were untouched and yet they not only shot him, but gave him machete cuts as well. It was a terrible thing to happen to my entire family, but we still accepted his death believing that God would judge him fairly. The late Ejike was a quiet, pious, young, enterprising and intelligent doctor. He studied Aviation Medicine and voluntarily teaches marriage course at his parish in Lagos. He was 46 and happily lived with his lovely wife and daughter until death cut his life short.
Life is truly crazy in these climes and we really do live in perilous times.
We need the grace of God more than anything. We have just been the lucky ones to cross over to the much awaited 2020. We however need to reflect on our lives and our way of life, generally. We need to sieve our excesses and do away with them. We need to get closer to God and try and live better. We need to build a good relationship with God and make him the torchlight that shows us the way to go. We need to live better with our families, friends and neighbours. It is not enough to quote new year resolutions we have no intentions of keeping. It is not even enough to make a lot of fuss about crossing over to the new year. It is very important to add value to our lives and to that of others. Life is truly short and we need to make the best of it. Some day we are all going to be gone like all the Nonsos and all the Ejikes, never ever to be seen anywhere in the world. Let's live aright and perhaps we can truly succeed in making this world a better place.
I came across an amazing piece authored by my Editor-in-Chief, Jude Atupulazi. He posted it in a media WhatsApp group we both belong to. I will end this week's write up with that piece which he titled 'Food for Thought'. Kindly enjoy it. He made a lot of valid points in that piece which I hope will add value as you read it. It goes thus...
Food for Thought!!!
I dedicate this day to all those who were with us last year but were left behind on the Cross Over Night. We crossed over, not because we were cleverer, stronger or more connected, but merely by His Grace who simply declared that our time wasn't nigh.
I exhort us to therefore see this time beyond the usual material celebrations, but as a time to resurrect the humanity in us and walk together in true love; helping one another whenever, however and wherever. Let's mend broken friendships, while strengthening existing ones. We can't be hating one another and at same time celebrating the New Year. Let old things truly be swept away. At the end of the day, after we have conquered our ambitions and seen it all, all that will matter are the friends we will have when we age. The friendless will age in isolated regret, while the one with friends will age happily and gracefully. Perhaps, you still think it is a long time off? This means you are unaware of the speed of time. Was it not like yesterday when we used to hear on ABS then the presenters saying, "1980 achoro go slow". Who remembers it? That was 40 years ago! At that time, 2020 sounded like a lifetime! But I tell you, if eighty of us are reading this, in another 40 years, more than half will be dead! It is not a bad luck wish but a stark reality. Death is REAL! Of what use is it, therefore, to go through life unloved and unloving? All these things that make us bicker and hate each other are not worth the pains we will face in the end. It is no use professing Christ or sleeping in the church if you don't live in peace among your people. The grave makes no distinction between the mighty and the low. Look at even the scenario at the mortuary. The same mortuary that houses the mighty will house the poor beggar brought in dead from the roadside. Isn't this enough food for thought?
Indeed, I've been lately pondering on this life and truly, I have seen the futility of some of our actions. The greatest church in the universe is the church of happiness, the church of oneness and the church of love. No matter what we are, how we feel or who we are, let's always remember the Golden Rule: " Do unto others as you would like others do unto you". In the end, it is what may matter, no matter how many titles you have or how many cars.
Let's therefore go beyond the usual New Year felicitations and deeply reflect on LIFE. It is evanescent, transient and fleeting.
Finally, for you to have a little idea of the vanity of life, make out time to visit the mortuary. When you do, just listen to your heart. It WILL surely tell you something. But if you're too scared to go there or you don't have the time, just do this: pick up your phone and google, "pictures of stages of decomposition of human beings". I salute you all.
He has said it all, dear readers.
Happy New Year to us all!!