How not to dishonour the dead
The word ‘idol’, in its major dual meanings, conveys significant messages when used. Idol could mean a graven image that is being worshipped or figuratively, a popular person. This piece will dwell on the latter meaning credited to an idol. Dead or alive, the legendary works of a hero or heroine live. The fact that a man’s works outlive him makes his works superior to the man himself. When the mortal body carrier is long gone, his works would still be a reference, good or bad.
In agreement with a popular Yoruba aphorism and as life’s reality also teaches: a person is not relevant or reckoned with when alive; it is when he dies that he becomes an idol. This maxim captures a true picture of the life we live as human beings.
The voyage, called life, which is between birth and death, is a reflection of a natural tendency we are inclined to portray. We all, one way or the other, are guilty of this tendency. What’s this tendency? Pretense! We are forced to grant attention to the one who dies. This hypocritical behavior of man usually leaves certain words unsaid or acts undone that could have encouraged or saved someone if timely delivered.
Do not let the beautiful compliments about the person come when he is no more. Tell the person those good and beautiful comments while he’s alive and can read the remarks, not when he’s gone. It is only those who are alive that would see the written words about the deceased’s life and times.
Endeavor to be the laughter in people’s lives; not sorrow or bitterness to them. Don’t wait until people die before you give them compliments. People should not be commended only when they are dead; they deserve the commendation in their lifetime. Those cute and encouraging words go a long way in making the recipient do more.
In a group social media platform, for example, most participants hardly drop comments on the achievements of members or even send birthday greetings. But when information drops about the death of a member, ‘Rest in Peace’ (RIP) messages begin to pour in from all. Every member suddenly becomes active with virtually all having something good to tell about the member that just passed on. Sadly, the dead don’t have the access to read the various dirges written about them or in their honour, only those alive would. Even those epitaphs that are usually engraved on tombstones are in reality not meant for the dead; they are written about the dead as a message or challenge for the living.
While it is important to do good when alive in order to leave good memories, it is similarly important that one’s good deeds be commended by people who observe and see them. Let the good-doer be commended before he bows from the stage of life. The commendation becomes worthless as the morale of the dead cannot be boosted in the grave.
There was this Nollywood movie I watched many years ago. It was about a man who died wretched but was buried in a casket worth millions of Naira. The family and friends were quick to contribute money and gather resources for the man only when he died. According to the man’s family members, he deserved a befitting burial hence they sacrificially contributed for expenses on coffin and burial ceremony. This same man was the poorest in his village and lived miserably till death with no one giving a hand of help. The reality is that, if he was there, the man would not wish his kinsmen well because they spent money worth millions on his burial but never on him when alive.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where one only gets the fastest attention when he’s dead. Mankind is a reflection of pretense and we exhibit this action unconsciously as we get so engrossed and carried away in the daily pursuits that we forget to check up on others or appreciate their works.
The other day, a very popular musician died and then people began to reveal certain good memories and other adventures, which many didn’t even know about, that he had embarked upon when he was around. Just a few days ago, another celebrity, this time in the movie industry, passed on and many of her lovers and followers hurriedly flooded media platforms with mind-blowing tributes on how good she was when alive.
Generally, people do not speak ill of the dead and expectedly, it’s ideally proper to share testimonies of that good life the deceased lived. However, it is important to ask: Were these commendations and tributes given in the lifetime of the dead?
In every field of human endeavor, there had been exceptional and outstanding contributors who left indelible imprints in various fields with their presence in terms of impacts. Many have even been long forgotten alongside their works, while others were only remembered and brought into the limelight after their death. Pitiably, no recognition or accolade for them in their lifetime.
We all are, at some point, guilty of not doing enough to encourage and spur people who are excelling and doing exceptionally well in a particular field by not saying those mellifluous words to them when alive; we do only at their burial!
Let the sweet and pleasant compliments be passed to those who are doing very well in their fields of endeavors when they are still around. Those kind words spoken to them would lift their spirit only when alive, not when they are gone. Some people ignore others who regularly check on them via different communication channels. The culture of acknowledging emails, chats, messages, or calls with a simple ‘thank you must be imbibed by all in order to encourage the initiator of the conversation. It’s a very important part of our value system.
Weeping, writhing, and wringing for the dead wouldn’t just be enough to express grief when an individual dies; rather, a sincerely honest way to have shown love was when the deceased was still kicking. It is true that the hustle and bustle of life may really not allow everyone to check up on every other person, but we can do the little in our corner by simply telling others how good they are in their fields when noticed, even as we all struggle daily in an attempt to answer the big question – how are we living?
Wouldn’t we rather show that love and appreciation to those who are contributing their best in various fields when they are still around to acknowledge receipts of those kind gestures?
Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA.
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