“And Then, We Die”
The Author, Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko. MD.firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is often said that, “Death does not fear nor recognise strength.” I was not yet in school, because, those days, your arm had to run over the top of your head to touch the ear on the opposite side before you were declared mature enough to be sent to school. I am talking of course about the state of affairs then in the rural arrears. This huge heavy-weight boxer-type of a man, who fell ill, happened to be my daddy’s personal friend. My “old man” invited him to come over to the township, to be near to “advanced medical attention.” So the giant of a man moved from the remote village and came to live with us.
His problem was that he could not swallow solids, and he permanently kept drooling. From clinic to clinic he got to, his condition worsened by the day nonetheless. He steadily lost weight; He snored very loudly, even during the day, and slowly passed away, apparently “choked by the disease.” My trouble for many, many years was to try and understand how such a huge tall, muscular man, taller than George Foreman, the heavy-weight boxer, who once dared even Mohammed Ali, could die “of something.” In my childhood, children were prevented from seeing dead bodies. There was nevertheless, a lot of sneaking and peeping through the legs of the elders to catch a glimpse. At times you got caught and taught a lesson. Incidents of deaths were not as plenty then.
Who cares today, when children too wish to satisfy their curiosity? Children observe too that when the dead are taken away to the cemetery, they are never to be seen again. The finality of dying is registered by children as well, but children fear death. But, do adults too fear death? It’s obvious, but adults split death into two parts, it seems, and one wouldn’t be sure in all cases, the moment when death snaps like the bite of a serpent, or THE AFTERMATH OF DEATH?
In Shakespeare’s rendition of Julius Caesar, and in Mack Anthony’s oratory, he says; “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Then it continues: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interned with their bones.” Does anyone miss the point of separation? Simple matters about death are the elements which tantalisingly scare us most. We keep reminded by events and ourselves, at least six to ten times in a day of twenty-four hours. Worse still, we are reminded of all that, even in our sleep too. We are not afraid of birth, because, before we are aware, it has happened. It is an entirely different matter when we are already on the planet earth, and we need an exit someday, and it seems everybody needs a clean exit.
Even “suicide executioners” need a clean exit, and what may happen is frequently dictated by circumstances. It is said that Adolf Hitler (Fuehrer of the Weimar Republic, 1933-1945), was forced into suicide, to avoid being subjected to the “denigrating manner” in which “Il Duce” Mussolini was taken out by a group of Italian peasants. That could be a process someone else may be “forced”, or even “enticed” to join, like the way Hitler’s Mrs. Eva Hitler, otherwise Mistress Eva Braun, had to join the bandwagon, a twist of the “complex debacle,” which may be the fabric of death. Psychiatrists don’t have any definite answers, or even a cogent explanation. But, the exit, self-imposed is bizarre.
Christians have a clue that even the central figure himself, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was not very comfortable with dying. “When he saw it coming, He fell prostate, and praying,” said; “Father, let this cup pass me by, but, not as I will, but as Thou will.” [Mathew 26:39]. It says it all. The absence of that fear in anybody is pathological. This is what the entity of psychiatric care is in our country, in spite of gigantic (gargantuan) efforts being put into “Mental Care Delivery” by personalities like Dr. Osei, incumbent Director of Mental Health Delivery in Ghana, and his predecessor, Dr. Asare Bediako, tirelessly are endeavouring to achieve, with government support. Would there be any hands up, if at an obituary, the tributes don’t seem to be geared towards awakening the dead, because they are not sweet? Non desire to see the dead, vilified. Does it really matter how large a cortege might be brought together? Opinions differ, but that may stay truly a matter of opinion. It seems, we are better accepted as dead men, than alive.
A humorist once said, “dead men don’t throw blows.” Really? In a Filipino scenario in the mid-eighties, the dictator was more easily overthrown by the spectre of the assassinated opposition leader (Ferdinand Marcos), against his opponent, Niño Aquino, whose widow eventually won the day. Then, it is true to some extent, that people fear ghosts. Try inviting even close friends, or a lover for a walk inside, or around a cemetery at night. Townships, generally speaking, avoid burial places. It is strange though, that when we dream and encounter loved ones who have departed to “the other side of the fence,” we recognise it, even in the dream, and we could be frightened. What are we really frightened of? Dead men and women have carried messages to their living loved ones, which, when traced, have revealed some secrets. And of course, there are millions who believe in re-incarnation.
Getting to conclude, it may be of interest to say a word or two on death, from the physical aspect. It gets intermingled with what men and women believe, especially, those who believe in God, vis-a-vis those that believe in Christianity, or worship as Christians. In the Bible, we were given three score and ten. That adds up to seventy years. There is in science, SENESCENCE, the process of aging. The reptiles, (pythons, crocodiles, etc.) pass on the average of, three hundred years. Blow flies live only a couple of days, and mice months, or a couple of years only. But, human beings have added 20-25 years to the biblical pronouncement since the last three generations. How come? The pathology that seems to begin “sine mora” after birth, and would continue until a system like the cardiovascular (the heart and the vessels that leave it, the arteries), and those that enter it – the veins), are bombarded with processes “that sustain life”, and in the process, are so subjected to wear and tear, and they may snap, sooner or later.
Genetics and environmental elements may “have a say” in the “biology” we are talking about at this moment. The same may have “predetermined – the length of our “length of stay on this planet. Genetics play a role? Yes certainly. How about environments? Yes, again. The week we took leave of our former President, dead at 68, a lady was buried too, and she was one hundred years old. So was a child, who was exactly 17 days old. There you go. Just read the beginning of the 18th Century poem:
“The glories of our blood and state are shadow, not substantial things
Death lays his icy hands on Kings alike
Scepter and Crown must tumble down…” – J. Shirley
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