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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.


  1. MR Mkhluli Sikosana MR Mkhluli Sikosana 8 August 2012

    Lock, stock and barrel “death is permanent” and it is a very dull, dreary affair it is also at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid because a man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist death. My advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it because even at our birth, death does but stand aside a little -looking every day towards us and muses somewhat to itself whether that day or the next he will draw nigh (Deathday). As for me friends and foes I have told my loved ones that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is the ultimate graduation available to every living being (Rich OR Poor)… is one of Life’s success stories that will happen to every being and it will never fail to befall one (Like it OR Hate it). Insofar as we all struggle to live well and always learning how to live; the truth is we are all learning how to die (Finish/Klaar). The saying that “live each day as if it was your last”, will most certainly and eventually come to pass. Keep this in mind: “remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose (you have nothing to lose). You are already naked. Even Steve Jobs said: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that…

  2. The Creator The Creator 8 August 2012

    Woody Allen said: “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering — and it’s all over much too soon.”

    I second that.

  3. MLH MLH 9 August 2012

    Even people who are not scared of death have a fear: what happens on the way there. I worry about having enough put away to pay the medical bills, about whether I will become a burden to someone and who will notice if I am alone, so that the dogs don’t starve. Sometimes, other people’s tragedies seem great ways to die: car accidents, major heart attacks: swift and final. Don’t we all hope for that?

  4. Solitoliquido Solitoliquido 9 August 2012

    There’s an interesting account somewhere of how Joe Slovo accepted the idea of his impending death, how he embraced it…Francois Mitterrand, the late ex French President, is also said to have prepared for his death right to the detail of positioning his body in the right way, the way he’d like to be viewed …

    Death is a voyeur, watching us everyday, waiting its turn to feast on us, or to simply take us, sometimes even to snatch us, away…

  5. freespeech freespeech 9 August 2012

    Bekhinkhosi – I really enjoyed your article and agree with much of it. Thank you.

    I am confused by your last lines:

    You write: “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.”

    What replaces the dead ones? In Cairo – a military dictatoship has taken over since Mubarak – so no improvement there.

    In Libya, Gaddafi was bloodily murdered after being lured from his hiding place by South African mercenaries. Now I’m not saying Gaddafi was in himself a good person – but his country was stable, Libya had a sophisticated health system, young couples were given a state grant to buy their first home, Gaddafi had developed an excellent water irrigation scheme and so on. Now a rag-tag group of ‘rebels’ and Al Qaeda types make up the new government under an American puppet, from returned from Virginia, USA where he had been financed by U$ oil companies for decades.

    So death may take some away, but ask who and which powers are waiting to fill the vacuums?

    US AFRICOM has big plan$ for Africa.

    AFRICOM is short for Africa Command – but it has nothing to do with Africans commanding themselves and lots to do with USA commanding Africans to ensure US corporate and geo-strategic interests in Africa are favoured.

  6. freespeech freespeech 9 August 2012

    By the way, here is an excellent article:

    Hillary Clinton in Africa: Promoting US corporate and military interests

    By Firoze Manji

    What is the significance of Clinton’s visit? Does it really hold out hope for Africa? There are three dimensions to this visit: The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); oil and natural resource exploitation; and security.

    In all three dimensions, the focus is on providing guarantees for US corporate interests.

    As Steve Ouma Akoth explains in Pambazuka News (, despite its name as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the principal beneficiaries are US corporations that will gain from the exploitation of cheap African labour.

    Yes, the latter will get “jobs”, but pitifully paid jobs..

    It is the security of US corporate interests that is at the heart of Clinton’s agenda, not human security, the security of ordinary people to thrive, to be secure that their children will be safe from impoverishment, serving the interests of humanity, not the narrow interests of a minority in the North.

    This visit is also about negotiating for AFRICOM (US miltary’s African Command) to have greater presence in Africa. It is hardly a coincidence that just as Clinton begins her junket, so AFRICOM announces its MEDFLAG [ a joint US-Swazi military excerise] initiative in Swaziland, with its dictator king. U$ other friend is undemocratic Saudi Arabia…

  7. Mdizman Mdizman 10 August 2012

    Death is a necessary part of life. However that does not mean that it should be welcomed. Similarly it is wrong to expect loved ones to accept death as if it`s one of those things.Human nature dictates that humans miss one of theirs who has departed from this world.A good example is the demise of a bread winner in a family. How can his/her survivors regard that episode as not so important in their lives? I do not dispute the need to accept death as inevitable but reserve the right to grieve to my satisfaction.

  8. Katse Katse 13 August 2012

    Interesting analogy of such an inexplicable and beyond comprehension phenomenon. If only death was not derived from enormous pain and suffering we would all welcome it.

    Your attempt is close to discussing God’s intentions, our brains simply can’t hanldle that. It’s called infinity, or undefined in mathematical terms.

  9. Lesego Lesego 13 August 2012

    Who else thought when they read the title “Making peace with death” the article was actually tackling the atrocities committed by the Western powers in the Middle East countries. They are making peace with death of innocent civilians? Or maybe I’m just too concerned about things that have nothing to do with my well being.

  10. Ace Ace 15 August 2012

    This is pretty much poetic. Great piece Mr Moyo…

  11. david hlabane david hlabane 15 August 2012

    if i knew you, i would say you have not lost somebody deeply close to your heart, but as i say, i know you not and so judge forbid.

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