The Sting of Death

By Fr. Pat. Amobi Chukwuma

There was a political gubernatorial campaign somewhere. It attracted over two thousand people, who came from near and far to listen to the manifestoes of the gubernatorial candidate in question. In addition they came with sacks to collect the dividends of campaign.

After waiting for about thirty minutes at the arena, siren started blaring and this was followed by a large entourage of exorbitant cars with tinted glasses. When they stopped at the political arena, a middle-aged tall and elegant man in traditional ‘agbada’ attire with red cap to match emerged from one of the cars.

He was escorted round the arena while the people hailed him and sang songs of victory in anticipation. After this, the governorship candidate mounted the rostrum. His personal assistants and party agents, who wore white suits and gladded in black sun-glasses, formed a semi-circle behind him. Then he began to dish out litany of promises he would fulfill, if elected governor of the state.

At a point, as the crowd was hailing him and chanting victorious songs, the governorship aspirant ordered his agents and supporters to distribute the small bags of rice and toilet tissues to the electorates to encourage them. After eating the rice, they would go to toilet in order to maintain body equilibrium.

If they vote for him massively and he clinches the governorship seat, then he promised to empower them with wheel-barrows and shovels. On hearing this, there was an uncontrollable applause from the crowd.

As the people were struggling with all their might to grab the rice and toilet tissues, a mysterious figure with black face and black attire from head to toe suddenly appeared at the arena.

There was a bold inscription at his front and back which reads: “I AM MISTER DEATH. ANYONE I TOUCH IS GONE.” Immediately, stampede broke out. The people abandoned the bags of rice and toilet tissues and ran helter-skelter. Many were marched upon and sustained injury of various degrees.

The governorship candidate himself, his agents and party supporters jumped down from the rostrum from different directions and took to their heels. They abandoned the convoy of costly cars because life is the primary value and has no duplicate. The campaign ended abruptly.

Mister Death mounted the rostrum and declared himself the unanimous winner of the gubernatorial election about to be conducted. Was he not the winner since every human being ran away for fear of death? Shall we not give Mister Death a standing ovation over his victory against humanity?

Death stings like a bee. A person stung by a bee runs away when he sees a giant fly. In a family where death continues to claim every child that is born and one happens to survive, he would be called “Onwubiko” which literary means “Death, please spare him.”

Alternatively he can be called “Onwuegbulam,” which means “Death, please do not kill me.” Those who have surrendered to the superiority of death answer “Onwukaike” (Death is more powerful). The fearless ones go by the name “Onwuatuegwu” (Death is not fearful).

There was a mini drama last week, when a sick man called Mr. Akpuobi Onwuatuegwu came to me to pray for his survival. I started laughing at him as I read meaning into his first name and surname. “Akpuobi” means ‘indefatigable’ while “Onwuatuegwu” means ‘Not afraid of death’.

He pleaded with me to forget the meanings of his cosmetic names and pray over him for survival. I obliged and called down the divine power upon him. On the following day, he was rushed to the hospital and on the next day he was stung by death. Was my prayer not effective? It was. At least he survived for a day before his death. Only God has prerogative over life and death.

Death does not discriminate. The Igbo name ‘Onwuasoanya’ says it all. It claims the poor and the rich. If death can be bribed, then the rich will remain immortal. Death is the end of biological life. All mortals therefore must die. Death is a necessary evil. Shakespeare says that death is an inevitable end which must come when it will come. In other words, it is unavoidable.

I just came back from the burial of my two colleagues in the Lord’s vineyard. My face was in a mournful state. I was also worn out. Despite that, I mounted my study table and started typing this write-up in my aging laptop. At a point, I lost consciousness and died temporary.

I saw myself standing before the judgment seat of God to give account of my stewardship while on earth. Little did I know it was a dream. I woke up instantly and made the Sign of the Cross seven times and then exclaimed, “Thank God it was a dream!” But it must happen one day. Any day we wake up from sleep, it means our death is temporary postponed.

Those who see death as the worst calamity go by the name “Onwuajoka or Onwudinjo” (Death is very bad). Thus, death rendered havoc in Onwudinjo family for a couple of years. The survivors came together to seek for divine intervention.

They underwent 21 days extraordinary prayer and fasting. At last they changed their surname from ‘Onwudinjo’ to ‘Onwuamaka’. Mister Death was happy and he left the family in peace and tranquility for years to come. Death is a transition from mortality to immortality.

In order words, it is the only means to eternity in heaven of course. It is never the mind of God that we should perish in hell. However, as we make our beds, so shall we shall lie on them. We shall reap over there whatever we sowed here on earth (Galatians 6:7).

It is only the living that suffers from the sting of death. The dead does not know what happens to those he or she left behind. Some time ago, I came across a hen that slumped and died instantly. She left seven little chicks behind. They clustered around the carcass of their mother and were weeping in their own language.

I stopped. Tears ran down my cheeks. I asked myself what would be the fate of the helpless chicks. I would have taken them to animal orphanage home, if there was any. I wanted to take them with me but they were running away from me. I left sorrowfully. Only by miracle can any of them survive.

There was a painful bereavement somewhere. The breadwinner of a young family died in a ghastly motor accident on his way home. He left behind a young widow and four little children. The widow wept despairingly when the sad news was broken to her.

Unknown to the sympathizers that gathered to console her and the kids, she sneaked out from the back door and committed suicide on a mango tree behind their house. Someone passing through there saw her lifeless body dangling on the tree. He alerted the sympathizers inside the house. It was too late. Her body was taken down and buried unceremoniously.

The four little kids became instant orphans. Her husband was still waiting for his turn at God’s judgment seat when she arrived over there. He was highly infuriated. He asked her why she abandoned their four little kids on earth through suicide to join him.

He ordered her to go back and look after those helpless kids. There and then they started quarrelling. The Angels of God separated the fight. At last the husband was escorted into heaven by the Angels while the hopeless wife proceeded into hell for eternal punishment.

By God’s intervention their little kids on earth were taken care by the state government and were given scholarship to the university level. Today, they are all graduates in Engineering and Medicine. In addition they are all married with promising children. When one door closes; another opens.

When an iroko tree falls, the impact is felt by the soil and the birds that made nests on its branches. The adult birds can easily escape while their eggs and newly hatched young ones may perish. Last year when the Chief Executive Officer of Tonimas Group of Companies, Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme, died suddenly, it seemed like the world has ended. Those who lived from his largesse nearly committed suicide. Today they are managing life gradually.

Last week the Catholic Diocese of Awka and the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia buried four of their illustrious priests. The remains of Reverend Father Raphael Ikem Oliobi and Father Paul Belonwu Akpu were interred at the priests’ cemetery at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Awka.

On the other hand, the remains of Monsignor John Bosco Akam and Monsignor Martin Ezeokoli were buried at the newly acquired priests’ cemetery of the young Ekwulobia Diocese. Tears were flowing up there and down here. Those who benefited from their large hearts wept hopelessly.

I am sure that God never sleeps. They will find solace from another source. No one is indispensable except God. I admonish them to take heart and trust in God’s providence. The bereaved families and the philanthropists in our midst should play their parts, so that the legacies left by the dead do not die with them.