On the 17th of March 2021, I got chilled to the core, as I saw status updates on my contact list. It seems people were in a competition to send their condolence notices, as the world was led to a standstill with the announcement of the demise of the President of Tanzania, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli.
This came after two weeks of Speculation on the whereabouts of the big man,with sidewalk sources, suggesting that the big man was sick. I don’t want to continue speculating, but I will trust the official communique of the Deputy President, and now the President Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan.
As an individual, I’m hurting. I got this by surprise, for the president was enjoying a fresh supply of life into the New term. Robust and with a clear bill of health, most of us were not prepared to hear JPM in the condolence notices.
There are lessons we’re supposed to Learn from his death—a lesson most of us are slow to learn and ready to forget—that many will not learn:
1. We don’t know How to Deal with Death!
One thing that we’re supposed to learn is the simple fact that we don’t know how to deal with death. Man was not prepared to handle death, for death was not supposed to be there in the first place.
I’ve seen people mourning through ink and condoling with the families. There have been a few whom I found disgusting, for they were making jokes out of the whole issue. But as I think through it now, the fact that human beings do not know how to deal with death is quite clear. There are even those who are exposing the weaknesses of the late head of state, and I would still classify this in the same category.
How did Adam respond to signs of decay which is a harbinger of death?
As Adam witnessed the first signs of decay in the falling leaf and in the drooping flowers, he mourned more deeply than men now mourn over their dead.– Conflict and Courage 22.3
Death is painful, and it is an enemy that cannot be handled even by the greatest psychologists. I’m glad that the Bible has given us a promise that death will die someday. The Bible is saying that after this there is judgement, and that our eternal fate will be determined with our character and commitment to Christ.
Atheists are postulating that there is no God, we are answerable to one but self regarding how we conduct our lives, no resurrection and that once we die it’s all gone.
The traditionalists are telling us that we are not dead, but we’ve just advanced to another hierarchy of beings, wiser than the living and having more control over the world. Which one is more comforting?
Because I don’t know how to deal with death either, I choose to wait for the land of an unclouded day.
2. Death is Too Impatient He Will not wait till you are Ready to Meet Him.
The living know that they will die, the only enigma is when. But most people don’t expect to die soon, and that’s Why we have plans for the years ahead and even plan events in the future. For many, death comes as an intruder, arresting them into the netherworld unprepared. People have gone to bed with intentions of doing their weddings the following day, being admitted to a new school et cetera, but were found dead the following morning. The story of many could be as well said, “died too soon”.
President JPM was settling into the New term in the office. Great plans ahead of him, and how to cushion the Tanzanian economy, but we lost him too soon.
So how do we deal with this impatient death, who has not time to settle terms with us, a death who does not send us notices to put our houses in order?
Some deal with it through the teaching of purgatory, which basically means the ability to change one’s fate after death. If this is true, then we should not care much about how we live, for there’s ability to divert our hell-bound lives to take a different path to the New Jerusalem. We should not have fear of the dooms day, for we have hacked its fetters. This is a traditional view.
The Bible talks about preparation now and the concept of probation is here applied. So each one is presented with a lifetime, which is not life indeed, but a mere period to prepare for real life — eternity with God.
There’s also a view of the agnostics who believe that man is liable to himself and no one else. We have no nothing after death, we live, die and it’s over. As an agnostic, have you ever asked yourself such questions as : what if God exists and there’s judgement after all is said and done?
I will prepare for the impatient death by purposing to live a life of usefulness in this world and of preparation for the one to come.
3. People Are Too Busy, But They Will Be there for you when you are dead.
One characteristic of the 21st century people is extreme busyness. When you walk in town you will find everyone in a hurry some of which could be going nowhere. This preoccupation affects the way we relate.
The truth is that, most people will not give you the attention you need when you are alive, save for a series of disappointments. It’s our privilege to be so qualified for life that we don’t demand too much from other people.
When you are still breathing, and blood is flowing even to your extremities, it’s time to try, to put a little more effort, but when you are dead, we will bring the condolence notices.
When you are alive, we will oppose you and put you on your toes, in fact we will not overlook even a simple mistake, for we want you to get the best out of yourself, but when you are dead, we will overlook your mistakes, for they too, just like you are late.
The great counsels that the late JPM gave, are now being mined from YouTube, which initially were ignored, and somewhat quibbled. But here we are looking for them when he cannot provide additional information.
What else should I say?
In the words of John Donne, I will finish the piece by saying, “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!”