The Day I Died…

By Dele Farotimi 

The day I died was a good day. It was the day I lost whatever residual fear I might have had for death. It was the very day I learnt to embrace my destiny.

It’s funny, the tricks time and perspectives play on a dead man’s memory. I cannot now remember the date. But of what use are dates, or time for that matter, to the dead? It was the day that I died.

It was just another day at the office. It must have been late February or early March. I know this because I remember that I was preoccupied with thoughts of my then impending 50th birthday, and I recall that it was a little over a month before that date.

I had as usual called my darling wife before leaving the office. There was some arrangement for my favourite dish of Egusi and pounded yam in place, and I called the wife as much in keeping with our habit of many years, as well as to assure that the music of the mortar and pestle would not commence until I was safely out of the unpredictable Lekki traffic. The ijesha blood in my veins abhors cold pounded yam!

The neatly choreographed pounded yam was delivered by Iya Wale on schedule, and food was served as I slipped into my Arabic gown, the jellabia.

Now you see, the passage of time has ensured that my children have succeeded in chasing me out of the main living room and dining section of the house, and I have become increasingly constrained to my own room, where I have been fighting an increasingly lost battle to retain the right to the small writing desk/dining table, and at least a portion of my own bed.

The pounded yam was excellent. Every visit to the plate for a morsel invited a struggle with the mound, to follow. Such was the smoothness and viscosity of the yam that my spirit prayed for my mother’s maid, who I knew was the pounder, and for my mum, for her supervision, and perhaps, personal involvement in the orchestra of the mortar. When my cook came up with the stew; I made a point to thank him for the Egusi soup that he contributed to the meal. I then called my mother to thank her for the pounded yam, and to ask that she passed on my gratitude to her maid, for the sterling effort on the yam.

Well and thoroughly satisfied, I bellowed for my ward, ‘Timileyin to come to my room and pack the dishes. I then stood up to do something; what it was, I cannot now remember. But the moment I stood up I knew something was amiss. I did not feel right. I lay on my bed for what must have been a little under a minute. Timileyin’s knocks at the door and entry made me attempt to stand up. The last words I said were “I don’t feel right…”

Then I died!!!

“Daddy Igbayi!” Timileyin was yelling. I opened my eyes to find Timileyin bent over me. I was on the floor between the window and my bed. I was too weak to stand; I could barely talk as I started gathering my wits about me. My upper left hand was bruised; other than that, I appeared physically fine. I did a quick tongue roll as prescribed by the many emails warning about the proper thing to do in cases of a stroke, and, concluded that I hadn’t suffered a stroke.

When I was 31 years old, I was diagnosed as being hypertensive, and one of the ill effects was what was at the time said to be an “enlarged left ventricle;” I was then placed on anti-hypertension drugs. The story of how God cured me of the illness would be told another day; but the condition was completely reversed; and, I was taken off the hypertension drugs before my 35th birthday. The first thing I did upon getting off the floor was asked that my blood pressure monitor be brought for me.

I stood there bewildered at what had just befallen me, a soon to be 50 years old! The fittest I have ever been in my life though not a sports person. In my youth, my grandmother ensured that I did not forget that every crippled beggar was a budding footballer until they were permanently injured playing the game. When my mates were playing football in the agboole, Oladele would be found playing Ayo Olopon with my grandparents and my grandfather’s other wives and their friends. Without having been exposed to football as a kid, it was easier to gravitate towards books, and I grew up a couch potato. I began to pay attention to my personal fitness as I approached my 40th birthday, and the benefit is that I am fitter at 50s than I was, in my 20s and 30s.

My surprise soon gave way to a mixture of annoyance with myself, and queries for God:

How could I have died like this? Haha! Die in my bedroom at 49? How?

I would die happy if I would have died for some ideals; the truth, in defence of my principles and beliefs. But to expire in my bedroom, in my prime…?

I thanked God for sparing my life.

The day I died was a good day. It was the day I lost whatever residual fear I might have had for death. It was the very day I learnt to embrace my destiny.

When I was checked out by the doctors and the all clear was given, I came to realise that God merely reminded me that I wouldn’t be living forever; that I am a creature in time, and I would be dying someday; that I should make hay, and do whatever I have been given to do, and; to quit worrying about what mortal men might do to my physical body. Every man would die one day or the other.

The day I died, was not the day of my death.

For those who would kill a man for the truth he tells, I ask that they consider the words of Patrick Wilmot:

“the truth of man is not dissolved in his blood”

To die in the service and pursuit of truth is to become immortal. To stand up against the amoral, wicked, and unjust governing system of Nigeria, and to die in the struggle to replace the evil system with a more equitable and just one, would be to have died well.

The day I died was the day I was freed of my last vestige of fear.

A Chapter in the book: Do Not Die In Their War  

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