In 1998, my father died solitary in a bachelor quarters in Tshwane, South Africa. My mother followed twenty years later. Pneumonia related complications in both cases.
There were about eleven other fellow patients in my mother’s ward at the hospital in Thabong, Welkom. She had kept everyone awake all night with her moaning in pain, crying out an unknown name all along. Nevertheless, she managed to eat her 0700RS breakfast that fateful Sunday morning; much to everyone’s delight since she hadn’t had much appetite the two previous days. After eating she fell asleep.
When my nephew, Kgosi, and I went to check on her during the morning visit hour between 1000-1100HRS, we found her sleeping peacefully. Apparently. After hearing the report by fellow patients about my mother’s restless night, we thought it wise not to immediately awaken her. She could have her full sleep during the course of the morning, and we’d come back to see her again in the afternoon as per routine.
Fifteen minutes into our arrival in the ward, an impatient family friend found that my mother was cold and lifeless. A few minutes later, a doctor declared her officially dead. She had probably died two hours earlier. No one had taken notice. It was one of those cases of “She died peacefully in her sleep”, I guess. Perhaps the same may be said about my father. He had been dead for about two days by the time his corpse was found in his residence.
I opt to convince myself that, indeed, both my parents died peacefully in their sleep when their respective times to go arrived. Neither was surrounded by their loved ones upon breathing their respective lasts.
The thought of whether or not my own death will pounce on me in solitude has been on my mind since February, 1991. I had for the first time ever gotten ill with what I later understood to have been an acute attack of the flu. Bedridden with high fever and profuse sweating for three days in my single student room, I was so weak that I was unable to lift a telephone sitting beside me on my bed to call my school or doctor in Oslo.
One week later I had recovered without having had received any medical attention. An older, more knowledgeable friend told me that I had actually had a close brush with death. Perhaps I should consider getting myself a wife, he suggested. He argued that many people who live alone tend to die unnecessarily because there is often nobody there to render immediate assistance in times of emergencies.
In the northern hemisphere spring of 1995, I had a first-time mean attack of hay fever. I didn’t know what it was at first. For many days I kept sneezing like what I thought was like a mad man. Then I began to cough as inexplicably madly. What I thought sounded like a small cat soon started mewing in my chest. This made breathing painfully difficult even at the mildest physical exertion. Then I knew I was in trouble.
At great financial cost to me that I could afford regardless, a former lover at that time then finally hastily made it possible for me to acquire an emergency cocktail of various tablets, capsules, and an assortment of asthma medicines. Had I been alone at that critical time, I could have died from pneumonia, the former lover said later.
Today, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, moving at a frighteningly fast pace is threatening human life across the globe. The United Nations and national governments are taking drastic and, in some cases, Human Rights defying draconian measures in individual and concerted efforts to isolate, treat, control, and eventually effectively manage the disease. The ideal situation would be to eliminate the disease, of course. But it’ll take time to develop necessary relevant curative and preventive medicine. Researchers the world over are currently working at break-neck speeds to achieve the latter.
Millions of people are under various levels of quarantine throughout the world, depending on suspected or actual infections and severity. Much of the industrialized world is under lockdowns. People whose immune systems are compromised from before are dying rapidly. Some people are quarantined in their private homes with their near family units. I am alone in my abode.
I am feeling well and strong. I can’t help, though, but think about my mortality in the event that my health should take a sudden, COVID-19 related downturn. Some other shit could happen too. One never knows when shit will hit the fan. I can’t help but think that were I to die now, I sure would do so peacefully. I’d die with no beloveds of mine surrounding me. If it happened to my parents it might as well be the same with me. Family solidarity. Family tradition. I’m their eldest child after all.
Like my parents, I leave no great fortunes behind. It’s just as well for me that, unlike my parents, I leave no children behind. As to whether or not it’s a good thing to die as my corpse shall be in a cremation oven, I shall find out upon arrival on the other side.
In the meantime, I can’t help thinking about one of my all-time favourite songs: If I Should Die Tonight, by Marvin Gaye. I’ve loved this song ever since the release of the Let’s Get it On album in 1973. Whereas the album title hit song planted me to its moment and has stuck with me to this day, If I Should Die Tonight continues to jettison me to a period that I now know marked the closing chapter of the happiest times of my childhood years: at the close of the 1960s decade to much of 1970, I got honey-sweet infatuated with an older woman that remains one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.
This woman was mother of my puppy love object at that time. And she was heart-warmingly kind to me. This woman had the sweetest of sweet song voices. She, together with some of her male contemporaries in our neighbourhood, used to sing acapellas of popular soul hits of the time: When a Man Loves a Woman, Crying Time, Stand By Me, and many more.
The sweetness that the whole of my being feels at thoughts of this woman is one of the sources of my emotional and spiritual strength at any time. This sweetness constantly fuels my desire to live and to love for as long as my life and capacity to love shall last. For I live, for I love, I shall dream, I shall hope, I shall create. For I create, I shall live forever.
I don’t have to meet the perfect woman for a lover. It’s not necessary. It’s not important for me at the stage of life that I have now reached. I don’t really need to. But this If I Should Die Tonight lady is one of those women that have profoundly impacted my life. That to such an extent that I pin on memories of her my belief that a perfect woman for a man is found somewhere out there in the wide, wide world. It’s only a question of whether the mortal man shall live long enough, shall travel the world wide enough. Even then, like the song says, “… If I should die tonight, though it be far before my time, I won’t die blue ’cause I’ve known [her] …”
There is much more to the phrase I won’t die blue for me. I won’t die blue. Never. I’ll die a contented man should I die at this very moment. It’s a daily preoccupation of mine to seek to do all that is within my powers to prolong my longevity for as long as it is possible. If I have a pre-determined lifespan, I want to beat it. Should I, however, die at this very moment, I’ll die a well pleased man knowing that I have defied death several times before.
I’m convinced that I have lived way past my allotted lifespan. But this I can only confirm to be true or false upon my getting onto the other side. If all truths of my life are indeed found on the other side, I certainly will be a happy man should I die now: finally I shall get to confirm who I really am, what my real purpose in life on earth was. Until then, within the best of my cognitive potential performance, given limitations of my human existential imperatives vis-à-vis universal creation, the following is the consciousness I’ll be taking with me should I die now:
- For all their strengths and their vulnerabilities, I got the best parents I deserved. I would choose them again could I start all over again. I love my parents very much, with all of my heart; I admire them beyond words. The joys of their lives I never think too much about. Joy never bothers me at all. I take it for granted that life ought to be a joy. Pure joy. Have joy, no worries. But I feel the pains of my parents’ lives from their beginnings to their ends.
Against the toughest odds, my parents managed to nurture the life that they had given me. They gave me all they could according to their life circumstances as a couple, and as individuals in a hard world. They had to endure untold sufferings, make huge sacrifices for that I could breathe and subsequently have the power to carve own spaces of manifestations of my influence through my creativity on planet earth.
If my creative power influence manifestations transcend planetary boundaries into the farthest realms of the universe, it is owing to, in search of, and for my parents on the other side. I want to tell them that I’m a humble but proud symbol of that they, indeed, left this world a better place than they found it. Thank you very much!
In all my endeavours, I am heavily inspired by my parents. It is in their honour that I do the good that I am often told that I do. It is for me and me alone to take the heat for the bad that I do. The bad that I do is never representative of the upbringing that my parents gave me. The errors I commit from time to time are a reflection of my own failings, my own stupidity imbedded in my own inherent human imperfections.
My parents are not my everything. My parents are but a microcosm of the grandeur of being human in the face of creation’s stupendous infinite spectrum of possibilities with all that humanity knows and has yet to fathom about it. I’m not an emulation of my parents. I’m but an extension of their collective and individual lifeforces. In that regard, creation dealt me a hand that is my own to play from birth. That in line with how I could synchronize with my parents’ energy bundles influences in me. Also according to how optimally I could utilize the unique powerhouse that I am in my personal journey through the infinitely intricate maze that is life.
I hope that as they took their last exhalations, my parents knew in their respective lonesome moments of dying that I hadn’t done half of what I had wished to do for them in appreciation of their having brought me to life, and all the good that they ever did for me. Furthermore, I hope that they knew that whatever little I did to make them happy were outcomes of only the best that I could do, having given only all the best effort I could harness for the goal when it mattered.
Consequently, I won’t die blue if I should die tonight because my heart is at peace in relation to my parents’ lives and how in their own way, they have contributed to making this world a better place than they found it from the times they were born.
My parents never got to seeing their grandchildren from me. Were children made like bread I’d have produced one-thousand-and-one-plus grandchildren for them. With the power of the written word, though, my parents’ legacies are etched in words by their thousands in thousands of pages in books that I have already written, and those that I have yet to write. Children might be born, die and be forgotten. Books might be written, get destroyed and burned, but words are eternal. Mr & Mrs ELWLM Chilembo, you have been immortalized. Now I can die.
- No, I won’t die blue if should I die this moment. I won’t die blue should I breathe my last tonight. I’ll be by myself. No one making noise around me, delaying my dying process. Should I die now, it’ll be peaceful. Really. I won’t be blue. I might see shades of blue because I’ll take my death like it’s an invitation into a meditative trance. I’ll spread my wings to fill up the entire blue sky for a moment, bid farewell to planet earth, and then merge with the vastness of space beyond.
Before I disappear into outer space forever, I’ll reach out to all those earthly souls that gave me so much joy, so much love in the living. They’ll say they saw me in their dreams. It is for these people that I have no fear of death. These loving souls ever gave me so much more than I could ever ask for of their kindness and generousity. It is for these people that if I should die tonight, it’ll be because my time to die would have arrived for sure.
Just like my parents, I’m no more than a microcosm of the grandeur of life. The good that I do is also grounded in the love, support, understanding, and tolerance of all the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of interacting with in my life. It is for these people that I won’t die before it is my time.
- I won’t die blue were death to take me away tonight because I know that I never set out to make this world a worse place than I found it. Although I’ll be dying knowing that, also here, I never achieved half of what I had dreamed of doing for the world, I gave the best that I could, given the opportunities accessible to me and my strength to work.
- With time, the illumination that I could only be that which I am here and now, and I could only do what I do in a given time and space, freed my soul. I understood that I could only allow myself to be taught, led, and inspired by others. But I could never replicate them and their deeds. Neither could I necessarily ever replicate external manifestations of their successes, if not their abilities to shape even global trends across the entire sphere of human endeavour. This was that moment of know thyself landing home at last.
By extension, it became clear that I also could only teach, lead, and inspire. It’s never a given that all my protégés will share my values and social skills in the end. As such, I won’t die blue should I die this moment because I know that as much as I am loved, I am hated in certain quarters. The choice to love or hate is a personal prerogative based on certain reasons only known to the lover or hater. If these reasons ever are revealed, they do not have to make sense to the loved or hated.
I know that if I should die tonight, I’ll die with a smile on my face because I’m so full of love. I know that if I should die tonight, I’ll die with peace because I know that I’ve had all the fun I could reach for and accommodate in my life. May haters have a good life.
May Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) die tonight. Perhaps not. COVID-19 knows no lovers, no haters, no irrational human segregation rules. If the virus stays just a little longer, humanity might at last learn that we can make this world a far better place if we all understood that we are all equally small and vulnerable against forces of nature.
COVID-19 shakes even the foundations of both the concept of God and her might. Many an oppressor, a racist of the world has God as their spiritual and purported racial superiority anchor. If COVID-19 destabilizes even the almighty God’s multifaceted global movement, it goes to show that forces of evil seeking to destroy the good of humanity have no future.
COVID-19 may be but a small pre-taste of hell. Another Soul singer, Curtis Mayfield, has said: If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go. We might as well all be humane towards one another as all one, same universal person. But then again, this kind of talk is beyond cognitive capacities of propagators of racism and oppression in the world today. Ignorant fools. Stupid idiots. Psychopaths. It is these scum that COVID-19 must rid the face of the earth of.
March 15-16, 2020