The Beautiful Coffin

By Pat Amobi Chukwuma

Just a week ago, someone in my ecclesiastical constituency asked me to come and bless his new shop and goods for him. I heartily granted the impromptu request. Consequently, I dressed up in my cassock, surplice and stole. Also I brought a Book of Blessings, a Crucifix and a container of Holy Water. Having been equipped with these sacred weapons, I drove off to the shop situated at a Y-junction as I was directed.

At my arrival, my jaws nearly dropped. What did I see? The new shop was painted in attractive colours. It has two doors. On display for sale were assorted coffins of different sizes and designs. The shop owner welcomed me with smiles. I responded with sad face. He politely said, “Good morning father. Thank you for coming. Kindly bless this new shop and these beautiful coffins for sale. Also pray that this business will boom.” I replied, “My friend, why did you not inform me that I am coming to bless the shop of the dead so that I would have been more equipped?” He responded, “Father, do not be afraid. I am in transport business. In other words, I transport the dead to heaven in these beautiful coffins.” I couldn’t help laughing. I shut up my mouth when I saw death starring at me face to face in that shop.

I looked at the shop owner straight in his eyes and said, “You are really funny. You will also be transported home in any of these beautiful coffins.” He interrupted me saying, “Father, point of correction. My own coffin is not yet here. It is still under construction. Please go on with the blessing.” Both of us laughed and laughed for about five minutes.

Then, I began the prayer of blessing with mixed feelings of sadness and hope. I blessed the shop and the beautiful coffins. I prayed for the repose of the dead and for those to be transported home in those blessed coffins. However, I did not pray for the shop owner (transporter) to thrive by the sale of caskets. Praying so would mean wishing people to die anyhow. Rather, I admonished the transporter to find something else doing for a living while the coffin shop remains for emergency since death is inevitable. In appreciation, the transporter of the dead cleared his throat and pleaded, “Reverend Father, thanks so much for your coming and for the blessing. I am intoxicated with joy. I have neither silver nor gold.

Nevertheless, I ask you from the bottom of my heart to choose one of these beautiful coffins as my gift to you.” I glanced at him suspiciously and asserted, “Mr. Transporter, thanks for your generosity. Please keep it for yourself. I am not in a hurry to die. I can see the spirit of death in your face.” He frowned at me and replied, “Please father, if that is a joke, stop it! If I die so soon, who will transport the dead to heaven? God revealed to me that I will be the last person to die among all those living globally now.” The two of us entered into another laughter session until a bereaved family came to purchase two of the blessed coffins for a couple who died in a fatal motor accident. I was really touched by the sudden death of the couple in question. I prayed for their eternal repose and for God’s guidance on the little children they left behind.

As the bereaved family was departing with the consignments, the shop owner alias Transporter was counting the money. He was about to smile to the bank while the bereaved family are shedding tears. After counting the money, he wished me goodbye and added, “Father, your prayer is very akpucative. It has started working.” He left for the bank while I sorrowfully entered into my car and drove off.

On reaching my presbytery, I packed the car carelessly. Then I entered into the Chapel of the Holy of Holies to meditate and pray. I prayed for the eternal rest of all the departed especially the couple who died in the accident and the souls being purified in purgatory. I also prayed for my happy death by God’s grace, when the time comes.” In my Open Letter to God in my last write-up, I asked God to keep my seat in heaven intact for me, even though I am not in a hurry to die. Nevertheless, we must all die, whether we like it or not. Shakespeare says that death is an inevitable end, which must come when it will come.

During an annual harvest and bazaar thanksgiving, a parishioner somewhere came with a beautiful coffin as his offering. There was a lot of murmuring as he was carrying it to present at the altar. The altar boys who were assisting the officiating priest disappeared like lightening when they saw the coffin. The parish priest accepted the offering and it was taken to the bazaar arena by the donor himself. It was the last item to be sold on that day. When it was raised up for auctioning, nobody priced it. It was stepped down several times. At last one radical man priced it three consecutive times. The auctioneer rang his bell quickly saying, “Going! Going!! Gone!!!” It was presented to the radical buyer. He asked the auctioneer to give it the parish priest. On hearing it, the parish priest excused himself to go and ease himself. He did not come back again. After some time, he sent a message that the catechist should take the coffin. The catechist immediately resigned from work and left angrily. The coffin was abandoned in the bazaar arena until a mad man started sleeping inside it at night. It was later removed secretly by unknown persons.

Are you afraid of death? Please take it easy before you develop high blood pressure and die before your actual day of death. Living a good life, doing penance, repentance, charitable deeds and perseverance in faith are preparation for a happy death. If you wish to have a peaceful home, buy a beautiful coffin and place it at a conspicuous corner in your common sitting room. Whenever anyone in your family or a visitor foments trouble, then point the coffin to him or her. One of my friends goes by the nickname, “Onye lota onwu. O nodu nwayo.” It means: If you remember death, you keep quiet. Death is the common denominator for all mortals.

However, human life does not end at death. Death is the beginning of eternal life in heaven or eternal damnation in hell. When we die, the body which is matter decomposes while the soul which is a spirit remains immortal. On the day of Resurrection, the body will rise again in a changed form and be united with the soul again. Then both will live happily in heaven or suffer in hell forever. Indeed human life is mysterious (imilimious). God is wonderful. The question for you and me is: Where will you spend your eternity, in Heaven or in Hell?

Our Country Nigeria has just celebrated 59 years of Independence on 1st October, 2019. What really did we celebrate: joy or sadness? In good governance, economy, security and development we have scored below pass mark. Next year Nigeria will be 60. A person at 60 is already approaching the grave. How old are you now? What have you achieved so far? If you die now, what will you be remembered for? The Holy Scripture says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labours, and their good works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). A certain sick Man of God fell asleep suddenly during church service. The catechist went and tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Man of God, are you sleeping?” The Man of God awoke like a sleeping lion and asked in return “You who are awake, what have you achieved?” Our life here on earth is transitory. At the end, what is the utmost thing we shall achieve? In fact, if we do not see God face to face, our life here on earth is useless.