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Making peace with death

Not that I have died before to profess on death, but events in my life and those I know have convinced me that death can be sweet and something to look forward to. After all if there is one thing we all are privy to, it is that one day we will die. Death is one thing we cannot claim ignorance of. We can be excused of not knowing many things, but not death. It’s not whether we will die but rather when and how we will die. The question of when becomes irrelevant when juxtaposed with the potential impact of knowing we are going to die.

Yet death has remained and still remains a taboo. We’re scared to talk about it, to accept it when we see it or even acknowledge that we know we will one day die. It’s very ironic that what we know is what we dread accepting.

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a relative — someone I’m told scathingly asked her daughters who they thought they were to stop her from dying when they prayed for her recovery. Clearly she had accepted she was dying but her daughters had not. This is someone who had made peace with death.

I know many people, who, when death knocked, had the courage to accept it, prepare for it and go peacefully. Yet their close ones could not let go. Even when it’s obvious somebody is dying, there’s a tendency to want to keep them alive for an extra day or minute. There is never a right time to say this is it, they can now die.

I find this curious. If we appreciated the value of this knowledge, we would probably spend very little time on negative and destructive things and focus more on maximising the time we have left. From the time we are born, we begin counting down to the day we die. Maybe we should even ask a different question on birthdays. Instead of “how old are you?” we should ask “how many more years or days are left?”

We are indeed counting down and as such a day more to our lives is a chance given to add value to an otherwise diminishing lifespan. We have to make the best of each second, minute, day we get.

The knowledge that we will die some day is an asset for ordering our behaviours and actions. It helps us know that from now on we should not create unnecessary divergences to real issues of need or want. I always tell friends and those close that when we fight I wish we could sort out our problems immediately because I don’t want to be late for my funeral as a result of me trying to sort out my differences with them.

Guests should not wait for me to arrive to my funeral. They should find me ready and waiting for I will have always known about my death. In other words the knowledge of our looming death should help us sort out all our problems with ourselves, friends, the world, nature and God. It should help us focus on the positive things in life, help us perform at our maximum.

Death should be something we approach with dignity. It should be honourable to die. Death should be something we look forward to. After all, death and life are bound together.

By the way, have you noticed that nature has been reordering political leadership from Cairo to Lilongwe, Accra to Sirte, and very soon in the Horn of Africa and some parts of southern Africa?

So death does give life after all.


  • Bhekinkosi Moyo is trained in political science and currently shuttles between Southern Africa and West Africa. He works for TrustAfrica-a Pan African oriented foundation that works to secure the conditions for democratic governance and equitable development. In 2007, he edited a collection of chapters: Africa in Global Power Play. He has just completed editing an 18 country book on DisEnabling the Public Sphere: Civil Society Regulation in Africa.