Thinking About Death
Oops! One of my neighbours called Ludovic Kahoro, who is a catechist in my home-town Catholic church, lost his father last Sunday whom my Mum used to know as Mr. Munyu. I was a bit surprised to hear of his demise because I hadn't know he was ill in the numerous times we have met this year.
Mr. Munyu was a short, quiet man who seemed to me to be always absent-minded. Whenever we met on the road-side and he happened to spot me, he would get jolted out of his absent-mindedness, smile, greet me and then lapse back into his absent-mindedness.
One thing I liked about Mr. Munyu was the way he loved cleanliness. He was always clad in suits and well-polished shoes. I remarked to him about his cleanliness one day two or three years ago, to which he replied, "Yes, I love cleanliness. And I always ensure even the most hidden parts of my body are clean."
So if cleanliness is next to godliness as the cliché goes, then Mr. Munyu was a godly man - which makes me think he is now resting with the angels in heaven.
Mr. Munyu is now the fifth neighbour I have lost in the last two or three years. That has led me to think about death since we are all destined for the grave. And several authors have actually encouraged me in their books and speeches to think about death.
There is Rick Warren who in his internationally acclaimed book, The Purpose Driven Life, advises us to live with an eternal perspective because our time on Earth is ephemeral. I agree with that because we only live for seventy or so years which is short compared with the age of the Earth which scientists estimate to be 3.8 billions years old.
There is Stephen R. Covey who in his international best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, encourages us to think about the kind of compliments we would love spoken of us during our funerals by our family, friends, relatives, work-mates and community members.
There is Steve Chandler who in his book, 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, exhorts us to think of death as one of the ways of motivating ourselves to make the most of each day. He says living without thinking of death is detrimental to our lives much in the same way as playing a match as if it will never end.
There is Pepe Minambo who in his relatively small book, Be Inspired Before You Expire, beseeches us to live such a wonderful life that the organizers of our funerals shall have an easy time coming up with our eulogies.
Then there is Steve Jobs who in his famous 2005 commencement speech encouraged Stanford graduates to think about death regularly. He said:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.It is such kind of thinking about death that drove Bill Clinton to accomplish much at a young age because he says in his autobiography that his father's early death infused him with a sense of mortality that made him make the most of each day. If you didn't know, Bill Clinton was first elected Arkansas Governor at a tender age of 31.
So I have also decided to be thinking about death as one of the ways of motivating myself. I will strive to be grateful for each day, greet it with a smile and spend it productively and enjoyably. And I will strive to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love by looking at the best in others even when they see the worst in me.
Hopefully by the time I die, the words spoken about me during my funeral will resemble those of Ted Kennedy in his eulogy for his brother Robert Kennedy who was assassinated in 1968 while running for the United States presidency.
Ted Kennedy delivered a magnificent eulogy for his brother, closing with these words of power and grace that have touched me to the very core:
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. [He should be] remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.And when will I die? Well, I can die any time from now. But I am sanguine if I continue deepening my faith in God and working on my physical fitness while engaging at a labour of love, then I can clock 90 as a sprightly, grey-haired nonagenarian.
How about you? Ask yourself what difference you'd love to have made in the world by the time you die. And try to continually imagine the kind of words that will be spoken of you during your funeral. Adieu!
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Part 2: Lessons From The Bible
To tell you the truth, there was a time I didn't believe in the Bible for reasons I won't disclose today. I even made it known to my fellow church members at Kiserian Catholic Parish in 2006 that I didn't believe in the Holy Scriptures despite the fact that I attended church.
Those who considered me lost those days were right. But those who thought I was completely lost couldn't relate the story of Paul who was once a prosecutor of Christians. Then he was suddenly transformed by God so much that he became one of the most ardent believers of the gospel. And you know what? Paul went on to author more books in the Bible than any other believer.
So in a sense, I am more like Paul. Don't be surprised if I end up authoring many stories on God and His Word in this lovely blog of mine; I, Thuita J. Maina, who was once an unbeliever.
Yes, I believe deeply in the Bible these days because of the way it answers most of the mysteries of life and the issues that concern us humans. Okay, let me tell you about them.
To begin with, the Biblical account of creation is more accurate and plausible than the theory of evolution that was first propounded by Charles Darwin. That theory of evolution for instance doesn't explain why apes still exist; as in, why were they spared from the spirit of evolution? Clearly, there is something that is not adding up in that theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution also doesn't explain the origin of sins. And you know what? Sins bother humans a lot. You go out there and listen to the stories of people; then you'll discover how people are hurting from divorce, theft, rejection, disagreements and other sins. Others are consumed with hate, fear, guilt and jealousy.
Yes, people are really bothered by sins; a mystery that the theory of evolution doesn't explain.
Then the Bible goes on to shed light on issues that still concern civilized man today: health, wealth, marriage, corruption, knowledge, paying taxes and life after death, just to mention but a few. Allow me to discuss on the few issues I have listed.
First is on wealth. I am sure it is everybody's wish to be wealthy because we all need enough money to lead a decent life. The Bible says that we all have to be patient in the acquisition of wealth. Whoever is quick to get rich will not go unpunished. And the best way to acquire wealth is through hard work.
On health which is another wish of every person, the Bible extols it as the greatest gift. The inspirational Book of Sirach found only in the Catholic Bible says "better the poor in vigorous health than the rich with bodily ills".
And do you know what the Bible recommends for good health? In addition to exercise and a good diet punctuated with an occasional glass of wine, we also need to think noble, cheerful thoughts. Let me spare you the list of verses that point out those keys to good health. You read the Bible deeply and you will identify the verses for yourself.
Third is on knowledge. The Bible says knowledge is the key to success. And it adds in the Book of Psalms that wealth without knowledge is like the beasts that perish. So in a sense, the Bible advises all youngsters out there to acquire as much knowledge as they can by pursuing education to university level.
Fourth is on paying taxes. I have chosen to discuss on this issue because I usually read in the media of people all over the world charged in court for tax evasion.
Jesus Christ himself counsels us in the Book of Matthew to pay our share of taxes which is because governments play an important role in our lives. They provide security, administer justice and build the infrastructure that bind us together. Those are noble causes, aren't they?
And that brings me to the issue of corruption. The problem with most governments, especially in the developing nations, is that most funds meant for those noble causes end up in personal bank accounts of corrupt officials; the kind of corruption that the Bible condemns. That's one reason that hinders development.
Let me leave that issue of corruption and dwell on marriage, another issue the Bible addresses. It says the keys to a successful marriage are marrying the right partner (faithful, upright and God-fearing) and submitting to one another.
I believe if every child was born in a successful marriage, the sins of this world would be greatly diminished because the criminals who create hell on Earth are as a result of the hoi-polloi who bear children they are unable to nurture into responsible adults.
Lastly, let me discuss on life after death which the Bible promises us. Let's face it; we are here on Earth for seventy years or so. That's a very small number of years compared with the age of the Earth which scientists estimate to be 3.8 billions years old.
For me, the Bible's promise of life after death inspires me with hope beyond measure. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this part 2 of lessons from the Bible, you might also enjoy part 1 of the series. Just click here to jump straight into the story.