By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Two ugly women were firing ballistic oral missiles at each other few days ago. One said to the other, “You are as ugly as a vulture.” The other retorted, “Idiot. Look at you, as wicked as death.” The oral ballistic missiles crashed over the other. A fierce fight ensued between the two. They tore each other's clothes and were only left on their dirty pants and worn-out bras. Fortunately, a certain man known as Peace-maker was passing by. He rushed to the chaotic scene to separate the fight. The vulture woman tried to pierce his stomach with a pointed rod, perhaps to devour his intestines. The other woman who looks like death came forward with a piece of heavy iron to shatter his head. The Peace-maker screamed and ran for his dear life. If you are a good swimmer trying to rescue a drowning person and the person tries to harm you, what will you do? Indeed, life has no duplicate. A corpse does not give account of what happened to it. It is only the living who gives account.
According to William Shakespeare, death is a necessary end which must come when it will come. Also, cowards die many times before their actual death. Biologically speaking, death is the cessation of bodily metabolic activities. Theologically, death is a transition from mortality to immortality. Death comes but once. A walking corpse lives between life and death. Poverty has turned many Nigerians into walking corpses. From the dawn of the New Year 2019 till now, whenever I see coffins displayed on sale, I spit out saliva shouting, “Tuafiakwa! Mr. Death, please go your way and allow us to enjoy the blessings of the New Year.” The coffin sellers prayed God for more patronage in the New Year. Can God answer such prayer? Unfortunately, many people have died from January One to date. May their souls rest in peace!
Death is inevitable. Since the fall of man from grace to grass, it has been destined that everybody must die. Man dies but once. Only Lazarus and others whom Jesus Christ raised from death died twice. He raised the dead to manifest his messianic power. Since Lazarus died the second time, he has not come back again. He is waiting for the final resurrection. Some time ago somewhere, an old poor man was believed to have died. The relations decided to bury him immediately. His corpse was washed and dressed for burial. Immediately the casket containing the corpse was lowered into the grave, a movement of the casket was observed. The old poor man inside started hitting at the casket and was shouting, “Please, open and set me free. I am not yet dead. It was hunger that led me into coma. Now I am back. Please give me something to eat for I am extremely hungry, unless I will die the second time.” Some courageous boys opened the casket and the presumed dead poor man waved at them, smiling hungrily. He was brought out and a pot of food was served him. He emptied the pot in a twinkling of an eye.
It is advisable not to bury corpses with haste, especially those who died suddenly. When in doubt, call in a medical doctor to confirm if the person is clinically dead or not. I recall an event that happened sometime ago. A certain man was believed to have died suddenly. His family decided to put the corpse in the mortuary. The mortician on duty received the corpse and dumped it among other dead bodies kept aside to be injected with preservative chemical substances before conveying them inside the morgue. As the mortician was about to dissect the body of that man in question, the corpse opened his eyes and shouted, “Where am I?” He looked sideways and shouted again, “What? I am lying between two corpses. What a nonsensical nonsense is this? God forbid!” He stood up quickly and ran away. The morticians, doctors, nurses and some patients took to their heels when the news broke that a corpse escaped from the mortuary. When the presumed dead man got to his family, everybody including his wife and children ran away. It took a long time for the “dead man” to convince all that he was in coma when he was dumped in the mortuary. Will it not be a second death when the man eventually dies truly?
I was moved to write on Second Death due to some sad events that took place some time ago and very recently. In Igbo culture, a masquerade is believed to be the spirit of the dead. Some years ago on Christmas day, a masquerade was crushed to death by a lorry at Abagana. As a priest I buried the corpse of the masquerade. During the burial ceremony I was asking myself, “Is this not a second death, since a masquerade is believed to be the spirit of the dead?” But I was certain I buried the corpse of a man and not a masquerade.
Two years ago at Umuchu, a lorry loaded with woods lost control and rammed into a group of masquerades and people celebrating a festival. Unfortunately, some masquerades and few persons were crushed to death by the lorry. There was a great confusion. The masquerades died a second time while the few crushed persons died the first time. If a masquerade is truly a spirit, it cannot be crushed to death. It will just disappear as the lorry was about to crush it. So, I advise all masquerades to obey traffic rules and avoid masquerading along the highways and motorways. Life has no duplicate.
In December last year, a strange fire engulfed the mortuary department of the General Hospital at Enugwu-ukwu. The mortician was not around when the inferno started. When eventually he reported to duty, he saw the raging hell. He tried his best with some concerned individuals to put out the fire, but all to no avail. It was too late when the Fire Brigade came.
After the inferno was put out, many corpses were burnt beyond recognition. Of utmost concern was that some of the bereaved families have fixed the dates of the burial of some of the burnt corpses. They were confused on what to do. They suffered double bereavement. A sympathizer lamented, “Oh, what a second death!” Anyway the burnt corpses have been cremated accidentally. The relations should just collect the ashes in a dignified container and bury them. After all, burial by cremation is lawful, especially by certain religions. It is also done in places where there is scarcity of land. Would you prefer whole burial or burial by cremation? Whichever is the case, we must be reminded that we are dust and unto dust we shall return again.
In a certain town, a young man duped unsuspecting persons millions of Naira and flew abroad. Those he duped were desperate to see him one day. But as time passed by, it was heard that he died suddenly abroad. However, he was not actually dead. He arranged for the breaking of the news of his demise at home in order that his creditors would forget his huge debts. The posters of his obituary were pasted here and there to convince everybody that he was dead. One of those he owed a huge amount of money committed suicide on seeing the obituary poster. But one of the creditors who was wise, took one of the posters and kept it safely as an exhibit when need be. It happened that this wise creditor traveled abroad unknown to him that his debtor, who was said to be dead, was comfortably living in that country. During his business transaction there, he saw the “dead” debtor. He couldn't believe what his eyes saw. To make sure he was not dreaming, he washed his face with a bottle of cold water. Then he was convinced that who he saw was the said dead debtor. He drew nearer and shot the dead man with his pistol. The fake dead man dropped and died instantly. This was a second death. The killer was arrested there and then by the police. Later he was charged to court for culpable homicide. Through his intelligent lawyer, the defendant argued that he did not kill a man but a ghost. He tendered the obituary poster of the dead man to show that he was dead. Therefore, he shot a spirit and not a living person. His case was proved beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, he was discharged and acquitted. What is your opinion? Did the debtor die a second death? Is his creditor morally guilty of murder?
In the moral parlance, a distinction is made between venial sin and mortal sin. A venial sin is a light offence against God while a mortal sin is a great offence. Saint John makes this clarification: “If you see your brother committing sin, a sin which does not lead to death, pray for him, and God will give life to your brother. I speak of course, of the sin which does not lead to death. There is also a sin that leads to death; I do not speak of praying about this.
Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, but not all sin leads to death” (1 John 5:16 – 17). The implication is that anyone who commits mortal sin is already dead spiritually. If such an unrepentant person dies, he or she dies a second death. In other words, any person who goes to hell dies a second death. If we wish not to die a second death, we must come back to our senses like the Prodigal son and go back to God our Father by the act of repentance and confession. Procrastination is very dangerous. Therefore, do not wait for tomorrow to repent. Repent now or never!
Our country Nigeria is already dead economically, security-wise and democratically. The current violation of the Nigerian Constitution by the powers that be spells doom for our country. Due process is the bedrock of justice. If this constitutional violation and the forthcoming general elections are not well handled, then Nigeria is heading to a second death. God forbid! It is better to be late than the late. A stitch in time saves nine. All Nigerians, no matter the Creed, should fall on their knees and pray for Divine intervention in order to avert the impending second death.