By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
At the terminal of 2019, as we were happily awaiting the Commemoration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and looking forward to the dawn of the New Year 2020, the awkward happened at Aba in Abia State on Sunday, 15th December 2019. A young beautiful mother of two kids named Juliet hanged herself in her bedroom. The helpless kids were there watching the scenario. They couldn’t comprehend what Juliet was doing because they were still under the age of rationality. They didn’t know what suicide is. In their little world, they might be thinking that their mother was trying to get something from the ceiling. Thus, they were ignorantly touching the lifeless feet of their mother dangling in the air between the ceiling fan and the floor, crying for breakfast.
When they couldn’t hear any consoling words from their mum, hunger drive pushed them to cry louder and hopelessly. This attracted the sympathy of some of the tenants to rush into the room to ascertain why the two kids were crying helplessly. What they saw shocked them to the bone marrow. At that moment, the kids were still touching the feet of their lifeless dangling mother and crying for food. The sympathizers examined the dangling body of the mother of the two kids and discovered that she was stone dead. Everyone was asking, “Juliet, why?”
Juliet owned a restaurant in front of the house she was living with her husband and the two kids. The husband rented the two-room apartment and pays the monthly rent promptly. He is a luxurious commercial bus driver. He shuttles between Aba and Lagos on regular basis. I learnt that he made sure that his wife and the two kids were comfortable. Nevertheless he was absent from home for one month. It might be that Juliet was missing him badly. Perhaps she needed his companionship seriously. Companionship is the primary purpose of marriage. Husband and wife ought to be available to each other. Any long absence should be discussed and agreed upon by both parties. However, the allegedly long absence of Juliet’s husband from his matrimonial home does not justify her suicide. She should have patiently waited to know actually why the husband was absent for the one month. Instead, she acted on hear-say and gossip. Did she call the husband on phone? What would she tell God at the judgment seat?
On that fateful Sunday morning, Juliet swept her restaurant and the adjoining premises. Then she excused herself from the people around her in the pretence of going into her room to collect some things. She never came back. Those people thought that she went to church from there. Unfortunately, she did not go for the Sunday worship. She just went into her matrimonial bedroom and hanged herself with a rope tied on the ceiling fan. The most confusing thing was that she did not leave any suicide note behind. Tongues started wagging. Minds began to speculate on the possible cause of her suicide. An unconfirmed report said that Juliet felt that her husband had abandoned her and married another woman in Lagos. Some said that she complained to her mother through mobile phone that she was tired of life. The mother was quoted to have asked her to come home to her, which she never did. Some speculated that Juliet was not mentally alright. Others say she was under a spell, which compelled her to take away her life rashly. Other divergent rumours went to town on why she committed suicide. What was certain is that there was no eye-witness, except the two tender and helpless kids. Also Juliet did not confide in anyone before taking her own life. She died in silence. A corpse does talk. Only God knows what actually was wrong with her.
Juliet, why did you do it? Why did you hang yourself in the presence of your little and hungry kids who were crying for breakfast? Their tears did neither deter you nor move you to pity. Why were you so hardened at heart by abandoning those tender kids? Why did you not confide in anybody? Problem shared is half solved. Juliet, I did not know you at all, but I am moved to tears for your rash decision and for the fate of the two tender kids you abandoned. Do you know that human life is not annihilated at death? Do you know that after death, come judgment, heaven or hell? Nonetheless, I pray God to show you mercy as you stand before his judgment seat. Perhaps you were out of your senses when you took your own life. I pray also that those little kids you rendered motherless may be taken care of by your husband and philanthropists.
As the sad end of Juliet was being overcome by the euphoria of Christmas and the dawn of the New Year 2020, something more horrifying occurred on Sunday, 5th January 2020 in Kenya. A pastor of Worshippers of Ground for Jesus, by name Elisha Misiko, was sitting with his wife near the pulpit. Suddenly, he brandished a sharp knife and stabbed her wife on the head and at the back. The cuts were so deep and life threatening. Before any help could come, she bled to death. The pastor further slit his own throat with that bloody knife. He fell down and died instantly. There was confusion in the church among the congregants. Some jumped out of the windows while others were struggling at the two church doors because life has no duplicate. If an iroko tree falls, the birds which shelter in it, fly away in different directions. A few courageous men in the church wrapped the corpses of the pastor and his wife and carried them to the mortuary. Tears were flowing like flood. Everyone was shocked and was asking, “Pastor Elisha, why?” The hunger that kills a rich man buries the poor man alive. If a pastor commits suicide, what then can his followers do?
For few years now in our country Nigeria, there have been reports of suicide cases here and there. Those involved take away their lives by hanging, by drinking poison, by jumping into deep waters, by stabbing themselves, by self shooting and by starving themselves for a long period. Some mentally deranged persons commit suicide frequently. Even some students commit suicide at the least provocation. In 2019 about 15 students took their lives nationwide. Some did it due to failure in examinations. Others took their lives due to disappoint from girlfriends or boyfriends. Financial constraint is another cause of suicide among students. It has also been found out that some students commit suicide under the influence of hard drugs. A number of the students who killed themselves last year drank an agro-chemical known as sniper. Hence the Nigerian Government has banned the use of it. Could you believe that some teenagers have also committed suicide?
I want to assure those contemplating suicide that it is never a solution to any problem. Human life belongs to God alone. Therefore no one is allowed to willfully take one’s life or lives of other persons. The fifth Commandment of God clearly says, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). The Second Vatican Fathers in Section 5 on the Value of Human Life, number 3 stated: “Intentionally causing one’s own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of the natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one’s neighbour, to various communities or to the whole of society.” Similarly, the Moral Theologian, Father Heribert Jone, states: “The direct taking away of one’s life is a mortal sin if done on one’s authority. It is also forbidden to do something from which death will accidentally follow, if one has suicidal intentions in doing it, e.g., to smoke or drink immoderately in order to shorten one’s life. Suicides are deprived of ecclesiastical burial unless they manifest signs of repentance before death” (Moral Theology, 1961 by Ferdinand of Schoeningh of Paderborn, p. 133/134).
As a cleric I compliment that an ecclesiastical burial can be granted to those who committed suicide unintentionally either by loss of sense or by mental derangement. Nonetheless, such cases must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. As I was writing this article a question was asked in ‘Philosophy and Life’ program in Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) on Sunday 12 January 2020: “Where do the souls of those who committed suicide go?” Listeners were giving different answers. For me, no one can answer with assurance. Only God the ultimate Judge knows the state of mind of those who committed suicide and where their souls go. Is Judas in heaven or hell?