By Francis Ewherido
I deliberately stayed up late Monday night until I could barely open my eyes. I really wanted to have a good night’s sleep, but I ended up sleeping very little before waking up. Though awake, I stayed in bed, deep in thoughts, for about three hours until I told myself I have had enough. While in bed, two passages of the scriptures and some events of the past week tugged me.
The first passage is the Psalm of David, Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” I am no bible scholar, but my understanding has always been that this whole wide world and all that mankind owns belongs to God, though our children and material properties bear our names. We are therefore no more than caretakers. Once we die, we cannot personally claim ownership of anything anymore.
The second is Genesis 1:28 – “God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…” My understanding here is that God never wanted us to own the earth; populate, dominate, subdue, yes, but not own it. This confirms that we are caretakers. Man has made substantial progress in all: populating, dominating and subduing.
The population of the world is now on the borderline of eight billion, technological and human developments have been phenomenal. But in all these, human imperfections are manifest everywhere. Floods and fires are simultaneously ravaging advanced Europe due to climate change and they seem helpless? Poverty is sweeping through Africa with all our natural endowments due to mismanagement. Yet everywhere you go, man continues to play God both at individual, corporate, national and international levels.
Right now, individuals and organisations have started drawing plans and strategizing for 2022. It is wonderful to plan because not planning is a disastrous way to live. But in planning, man is limited because he is not all-seeing. Pause and look back at your 2021 plans so far. You are even lucky you can look back. Some plans have ended abruptly because the planners are six feet below. Planned milestone birthdays will no lo longer be celebrated, factories and planned projects are now for others to execute or jettison. Some are lucky they are still alive, but their plans are on hold. When you hang to life by a thread, those plans go to the inner recesses. Staying alive is all that matters.
Some of these deaths are those who have the money to pay for any kind of health care. If it were possible to exchange life for their death, the resources are there. It must have been very frustrating for the deceased and loved ones left behind. But God shows His supremacy and like any other person, they depart. Death is a leveler. For the rich, poor, holy, filthy, there is only one physical death: you stop breathing and your sojourn here ends. How much those left behind spend on your burial, how you are remembered and every other thing thereafter are for the living.
Give your best to life, but also strive to get the best out of life. Delay your gratification, but enjoy a little bit of life at every point. As you know, death gives no notice. Life is fleeting. I remember my earliest times in Ughelli, Delta State, over 50 years ago. The only interests were to run errands for elders, play, especially in the rain, and go to church on Sundays. There was always food, although it was not always my choice. Primary school came and past; then secondary school. Those were anxious times because there were not enough schools to go round and not entering school with your classmate was no good option. How do you look at them in church, in the streets and market places? Avalanche of schools, private and public, has taken that weight off the fragile shoulders of pre-teens.
Secondary education came and coincided with adolescence and puberty. Mismanagement of this period still hunts some people in their 50s and 60s till date. I remember our school principal advising us in the assembly to face our studies. “These girls you are running after, a time will come when they will start running after you, you will be the ones running away,” he would say. Then, we would retort with snide remarks. Today, the responses of many of us will align with our former principal’s. Those of us around then would mainly be between 55 and 60 years now.
Priorities have changed to mainly health and family matters. Some are stranded because, at this critical age, they are struggling with school feels and money to take care of their health. Some are retired without adequate preparations. Those in Lagos still wake up at 4am every day to go to work. Waking up daily so early for some of them is too much torture for their bodies. After dying slowly, some have permanently died. If you observe, you would have been seeing obituaries of this age group.
I am an apostle of starting early. ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL: go to school/learn your trade and start work early. As a starter, you do not have the wisdom or experience, so get a get a mentor, if your parents or those around you cannot provide mentorship, to guide and quicken your journey. I do not want to tell young people not to enjoy their lives so that they will not make snide remarks at me as we did our principal. Also, I do not want them to feel like they have missed out on anything later in life, but be careful, much of the so-called fun is a bloody waste of time that adds no value beyond bragging rights later in life. You are a middle-level officer in a company owned by the husband of your former girlfriend, so what is that?
Pray to find your life purpose early and focus on it. Do not hurry to go into marriage, but marry early if you have the fortune of divine guidance to your future partner, the basic financial stability and a personal roof (owned or rented) over your head. Have your children early, if they come. Keep the family size trim. This is no era for large families. Except for those who planned very well, paying school fees after age 55 is stressful. Save, invest and plan for your old age and use it to give yourself and your spouse the kind of quality life that circumstances will allow you. When the kids have moved on, your spouse is all the company you might get.
My condolences to my brother, Jude, who lost his mother-in-law, and the entire family of the late Chief Francis Agboro family, on the death of their matriarch, Chief (Mrs.) Mary Agboro. We also lost a dear family friend, Mrs. Stella Edafioka. Again another friend, Samson John Obiankej, who worked in the advert department of The Guardian Newspapers. He was a good man. In those days, he placed adverts for me in The Guardian on credit when the money was not ready. That was critical. In less than two weeks, we have lost two people in my neighbourhood. May God grant their souls eternal rest. One of the burdens of growing older is the increase in the news of death of people you know. It is tough.
What personal lessons do I draw from these? Man is just a feeble and ephemeral being. Only God is omnipotent. So, I pray to God to help me draw clear boundaries between self-worth and humility. Life will be meaningless to me without self-worth, but wean me of any form of pride, Lord. Pride is foolishness, pride is hollow.