In a span of a week, I have attended two funerals. One was unbelievable, the kind you only believe when you see the body lying peacefully in that coffin. He was an awesome young man, just two months older than me. For once in my life, death was real. Such a promising young man who was going to rescue his entire family from the grip of poverty with his charisma, charm and brains. He was one of the few people who wrote me a letter in high school. He always went to the trouble of inspiring someone to be better, even when you felt he was a bother. Truth be told, I often told him off and he still came back with a smile.
Two days before he met his death, I found his Facebook chat message, a simple ‘hi’ which I responded to too late. He was knocked down by a vehicle in the CBD and fought for his life for about a day in Kenyatta Hospital. We had grown apart for a while, which I regret now.
The preacher at his funeral talked about how you and I can be likened to computers. Your beautiful body is the hardware; we all see it and admire it but what next? You cannot do anything with the sleek hardware unless you have the system and application software. Just like a computer, you and I need some topnotch software to enable us be worthy to the end user. Your attitudes, service to humanity, virtues and all other intangible traits are what make people remember you when you are gone, not because you are handsome or something of the sort. Otherwise, you are just a dead man walking.
Yesterday, I was at another funeral. The sister to my grandmother passed on at 87. Like the preacher said, we all accept such a death better than that of a young person. He went on to say that most young people today will not reach the age of 87 because of reasons that can be avoided. When he said that, anger rose within me. There I was thinking, ‘You have no right to say that we will not live beyond a certain age!’ and yet I knew there was a lot of truth in what he was saying. I will not point fingers because, in any case, four of them will be pointing back at me. But we all need to reevaluate our lives to eliminate the things leading us faster to the grave. I have a purpose; you have a purpose, fulfill it.
The preacher ‘cracked’ a joke based on the 90th Psalm that states that the sum of our years is seventy and eighty if we are lucky. He asked those who were seventy to raise their hands up then said that he was going to preside over their funerals next, and we all laughed. At the back of the mind I was wondering, why are we laughing? Are we not supposed to tremble? Then I realized that death is inevitable whether we want to avoid the topic or not. Like Randy Travis sang,
‘It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you; it’s what you leave behind you when you go’
What will I leave behind? It is not a matter of drawing up personal vision 2030 goals on how I will help people in future. It is about the here and now. When I am gone, nobody will talk about my plans, they will talk about what changed and helped them. I am not saying that I want to die, neither am I saying that I will die soon. What I am saying is never use your age as an excuse for doing nothing. My friend left so many tears behind because he impacted everyone everywhere he went, from home, to school to the village.
Other funerals will take place soon in Kenya, and they will be of a national magnitude. The country is in mourning, whether we want to accept it or not. Someone will say that there is no point mourning the very same people we accuse of stealing from us every day, but no one will ever know the truth behind the scandals. Someone prominent dies and you temporarily shift your focus to him. You forget the building that collapsed and killed other equally human victims and focus on the VIPs.
Or maybe it is not us; it is the media that leads us to do that. That is life and there is nothing wrong with greater shock when someone as calm and nationally respected as the late Minister passes on.
Finally, if you are young like me, “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12