Tag Archives: mortality

Of mortality and forgiveness

Death serves as a constant reminder that this life we have is just a passing breeze. It’s only a temporary stopover to the main place; eternity. Not many believe in that but the faith I profess teaches about life after death. What we believe however, doesn’t change the fact that death is real. Whether we believe there is eternal life or not doesn’t stop people from dying. And each time someone we know or love crosses over to the other side we are reminded that we’re here only for a while.

Last Friday but one my big sister left for school. Minutes later, the doorbell rang. I was about to start saying my morning prayers when my small sister opened the door. It was our big sister. I didn’t know why she had suddenly come back. Curious, I went to see what the matter was. She had a horrified look on her face. At first I’d thought she had forgotten something or couldn’t get a bus to school so wanted me to drive her, but the patent fear on her face told me it was something more serious.

“You’ll want to sit down for this one,” she said.

My curiosity graduated to dread in an instant. Taking her advice, I sat down. I didn’t want to freak out but her body language bespoke fear that was almost tangible. “D is dead!” She blurted out, a palm pressed against her chest.

My small sister and I gasped in horror. “What?” We asked simultaneously.

“Are you sure it’s him?” We asked.

“It’s written on the noticeboard at the gate,” she replied, grief stricken.

When the shock wore off, my small sister stated crying. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

“But I saw him in church on Sunday and he looked happy and healthy,” I added. My sisters both agreed they saw him too and he didn’t appear ill. Minutes later, my big sister left for school. For close to an hour my small sister and I tried to guess what could have led to his sudden demise. He was a young man in his twenties, and though he and my small sister were once tight, they had long fallen out; at the time of his death we were not in good terms.

He and my sister started off as friends and after a while he told her he wanted her to be his girlfriend but my sister turned him down. She wasn’t ready to get in a relationship. The disappointment of my sister rejecting him sought of embittered him because anytime he saw any of my sisters, mom or me, he would start making snide comments about us with other guys, high-fiving and all. He was actually the one who inspired my post, ‘men in skirts’.

He ran a movie shop near the place we bought groceries. Everytime I went by to buy some vegetables, he would find something irritating to say about my hair extensions, or my weight; anything he knew would piss me. He always succeeded because I would always leave feeling so offended, breathing fast, fists clenched.

At one point I told my sisters I would give him a piece of my mind the next time he dared say anything about me. They warned me; that would be imprudent. Reluctantly, I gave heed to their words. I didn’t have the stomach for all the nastiness, so I chose to stop going there. Every one of my family stopped going there. The place we’d previously frequented became alien.

We were not sure avoiding him and his friends was the best choice but it felt better. We didn’t have much to complain about. Since we stopped going there, we didn’t know what he said about us, but everytime he saw us passing by, he would laugh so loud. I imagined he was doing that so we would think he was laughing at us. Maybe I was wrong. It was irritating, but we didn’t let it get to us.

Christianity teaches about forgiveness; but constantly, we wondered how we could forgive him given that he didn’t seem remorseful. Forgiveness and repentance go hand in hand. For one to be forgiven, they need to be ready to make amends for their shortcomings. He didn’t seem ready; we therefore opted to stay away from him.

Until the time of his death, we were not talking. I was never really friends with him, but my sister was. It tore me to bits to see her grieve over a man who spent his better days making her life and ours miserable.

“If we heard it was an April fool’s prank they forgot to take down and we found out he was alive, what would you do?” I asked her as she wept.

She took a while to reply, pondering over the question. “Nothing.”

“See. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to make peace with him. He just wasn’t ready for it.”

For forgiveness to work, the involved parties need to meet halfway. If one is forgiving someone that’s far, it is easier to forgive them in order to get some closure to some painful experience. But if the person one needs to make peace with is present, it’s difficult to mend fences if they are unwilling.

When we learned of his death, we wished everything had been okay between us; nonetheless, it’s easier said than done. Truth is even he were alive, there wasn’t much we could do, unless he also realized the need for us to reconcile.

Even so, I realized it’s good to be at peace with everyone. There’s no telling what tomorrow brings.

Beginning of Lent

Yesterday, 5th March was Ash Wednesday. It was the first day of the forty days’ Lenten fast preceding Easter. The ash used is made from burning Palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. It’s then blessed by the priest, who then puts it on people’s foreheads in the form of a sign of the cross. The ash serves as a reminder that human beings came from dust and to dust we shall return.

ash wednesday

Additionally, in the early days before soap was discovered, ash was used for cleaning. In this case therefore, the ash also symbolizes cleansing. In ancient times, the use of ash was an outer manifestation of mourning and repentance. In Job 42:6, after realizing his mistakes about questioning the will of God Job said, “So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes.” Ash therefore shows that a sombre mood characterises the Lenten season; purple vestments are used by priests.

The three pillars of lent are fasting, reflection/penance and alms giving. It’s a period where people are called to reflect on their relationship with God. Sin separates us from God; it’s precisely for this reason that the need for repentance is greatly emphasized. It’s also a season of self-denial. People are encouraged to give up the things that pull them away from the grace of God; things they feel weaken their faith as Christians. If, for instance, anger makes you do things you regret later, give up on the anger.

The faithful are also encouraged to sacrifice the things they love. Basically this is a time of repentance; therefore we should deny ourselves those things that afford us pleasure in life. Whatever one chooses to sacrifice, they are asked to give it to the needy.

The forty days’ fast is an imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4: 1-11), immediately after His baptism. He went there to prepare Himself for the great mission He was about to embark on. During this Lenten season, we are reminded of our mortality, so we can realize the need to reflect on the relationship we have with God and repent our sins before it’s too late.

We are reminded not to put too much attention on bodily things; on material things, because they all shall pass. We’re reminded not to attach so much importance to physical things, because it’s the soul that matters. It’s the soul that carries on with the eternal journey when this life is no more.

Even though I write so much on Christianity and spirituality, I am not oblivious to the fact that not all my readers are Christians. But I hope this post inspires everyone who reads it somehow. I don’t ask that everyone converts to Christianity, but I hope that each one reflects on the lives they lead; one doesn’t need to be a Christian to help the needy, and neither does one need to be a Christian to aspire to be a better person.

Humans are synonymous with sin; our nature predisposes us to imperfections. This period is simply a time to reflect, atone for our wrongs and help those in need. One doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christian to do that.