Hello, from the other side
Death is all around us, its possibility stalking us at every moment. Death is not always this far away thing; sometimes we don’t get a chance to plan or prepare for it. Sometimes retirement funds and 401Ks go unused, and weddings as well as bucket-lists go undone.
I heard a lot about death while I was alive, and I was impacted by death as well, the pain of loss, the suddenness with which your world changes, and yet in some ways remains the exact same way. Death is always unfair, and sudden, even when it’s the death of an aged person. Though you may comfort yourself saying they lived ‘long’, your love for them makes the notion of long, not long enough.
Seconds before I died, I didn’t see my entire life flash before my eyes. That’s what those who escape what we term ‘untimely death’ say, right? How they saw everything they ever did play out in front of them like a film? I heard this for the first time from my aunt, many years ago after she survived an automobile accident.
“It was so fast, like someone just played a condensed video of my life.” My aunty had said hoarsely, through swollen lips.
“Thank God you didn’t die.” my mother said emotionally seconds later.
I nodded as I stared at my aunt concerned; I could see she was in terrible pain. Such a vibrant woman, always up and doing, and very beautiful with her lustrous ebony skin, now she looked weathered, like she was barely hanging on.
After my aunt, I heard that expression countless times and I assumed it was standard, that it was what happened across the board. But for me, the moment before my death, I didn’t see my whole life flash, what I saw was what I really wanted to have for breakfast that morning. You may find this incredulous but it’s true.
You see, that morning, I woke up with this craving for pancakes. It had been a while since I had them and I said this to my sister, Joyce, who was pouting and taking selfies in my sitting room.
“So make some, and for me too.” she replied striking another pose.
My younger sister had come to spend the weekend with me. I am working as… I was- this dead thing takes some getting used to. I was working as a pilot for the air force and I had accommodation at one of their properties. My sister liked coming over because it was a beautiful flat, and it got her lots of likes on her social media pages. She also had a crush on my neighbor and good friend David.
I lazily walked to my kitchen and opened one of the cupboards, and realized I was out of flour.
“I am out of flour, can you please go over to the store and get some.” I asked sweetly.
Joyce shook her head, “Make something else I’m going live on Instagram now. You can always have pancakes another time.” She retorted getting comfy on my sofa.
But how were we to know that there would never be another time? There had been plenty of ‘another time’ before, another time to buy that shoe, another time to make that call, another time to read that book, another time to say ‘I love you’, ‘I am sorry’, another time to live better or eat that pancake. There had been plenty of chances to reclaim missed and overlooked opportunities before, so it was easy to believe there would always be more. But one day there wouldn’t be more, the last chance you will have is either a chance you missed, or a chance you took.
So, that was what I thought of seconds before I died, I should have had pancakes for breakfast.
By now some reading this are wondering how I died, others think they already know, you read pilot and put one and one together and get plane crash. But you are wrong, it wasn’t a plane crash, though that reminds me of how upset my mother was when I got admitted to aviation school. My mother’s fear was that I would die in a plane crash, her fear of flying was being projected on me and I was not going to let it. I had always wanted to be a pilot, since I was maybe five years-old, and that never changed.
I am glad I did not die in a plane crash, I believe that would have in some way compounded my mother’s grief, and even though we did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, I do not want her to go through the tormenting pain that will come from knowing I died in the manner she had always feared I would.
I did not die in the air, but on the ground, in a neighborhood I had visited countless times before, crossing a road I had done so many times before.
I want to say one last thing about death, perhaps it is something you already know, but permit me to say this to you, death is possible in every scenario, even the perceived safest. Death is ethereal and so it can over ride the most solid fortresses. I am not trying to scare or alarm you, I am just saying when it comes to death, don’t think you have it figured out: how to avoid it, or how to keep it at bay for x number of years.
Death happens, and the way to approach this fact is the same way you are assured of its happening, by living.
Finally, eat that pancake for breakfast.