FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaSaturday, November 7, 2015
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


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THE PRAYING CORPSE

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s I was taking a walk, I came across two ladies quarreling. The taller once caused the shorter one, "You corpse!" The shorter one retorted, "You dead body!" They jettisoned reason overboard and began to exchange female blows left and right. An elder man came out to separate the two fighting. He used his walking stick as instrument of the separation. He asked them, "My daughters, what is wrong?" The one complained, "She called me a corpse." The other while breathing like an agama lizard that fell from an iroko tree said, "She called me a dead body." The elderly man told them that there is No Victor, No Vanquished. Is there any difference between a corpse and a dead body? Morticians can supply the answer.

I nodded my oval head in complete bewilderment and exclaimed, "Wonders shall never end!" Once a human body ceases to breathe, it is referred to as a corpse. All human beings are potential corpses. Corruption of the corpse begins immediately after death. Have you seen a corpse praying? Yes, I have seen one. Hear me. A certain devout terminally sick man was kneeling on his bed praying the Rosary. It was a day of the Sorrowful Mysteries. After reciting the fifth Sorrowful Mystery: "The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross," the sick devout man bowed down his head prayerfully and died smiling. But he was still kneeling and holding his Rosary Bead tight.

The woman looking after her came across his room three times and saw him still kneeling and praying the Rosary. After few hours, the woman started wondering how the sick man was praying without end. She was waiting anxiously for him to rise and take his lunch which was cooling on the table. She waited and waited, all to no avail. She was moved to distract the praying sick man. She came closer to the sick man's bed and shouted, "Papa Nkechi, get up and eat! You have prayed enough." There was no reply or movement. She then tapped him on the shoulders saying, "Papa Nkechi, get up!" She tried to help him get up, but behold his body was very cold and stiff like a log of wood. She screamed and started panicking. She cried and cried. The neighbours ran helter-skelter. They saw. They believed. A corpse was praying. What a joyful death! How I wish I shall die praying! What of you?

The cockroach says that the death he died inside a pot of palm oil is not a bad death. What do we say of a person who died inside a kitchen? Surely he did not die hungry. There was a man who stood at the back of an open vehicle. As the vehicle was descending a hill, the break failed and the vehicle was moving at an uncontrollable speed. That man standing at the back of it was shouting on top of his voice, "Ewo-o! It is only with a cup of palm wine which I drank last night that I am going into the land of the dead!" They ended fatally in a gully. Instead of praying in the face of danger, the man died regretting having drunk little palm wine. I knew a man who was born in the kitchen. When his time was up, he died in the toilet. Did he die a joyful or sorrowful death? A certain woman was born at a farm and died inside a church. In the next world she would be a farmer and a saint.

Have you not heard of a drunkard who died on top of green bottles which he emptied into his stomach? Have drunkards a place in heaven or in hell? What of a married man who died on top of a prostitute in a hotel? He died in the very act of adultery. Can God pardon him? In the obituary, the family wrote that he died in road mishap. Was it not truly a mishap? An armed robber was shot dead by the police while he was snatching a car at a gun-point. Did he not die on active service?

According to Shakespeare, death is a necessary end which must come, when it will come. It is not how long we lived but how well we lived. In obituary posters we read: Gone too soon, Painful Exit, Sun-set at dawn, Celebration of Life, Transition, Good Night, Life Well Lived, etc. When it concerns youths, we normally see "Gone too soon" or "Painful Exit." Last week as I was driving along a road in a village, I saw an obituary with the inscription "Gone too soon." On getting closer, I observed that the man who died lived 90 years. Indeed I couldn't control my laughter. It could be that an illiterate produced the obituary poster. This reminded me of unlettered parents who were blessed with bouncing baby boys twins. On their naming day, the parents called one Obi and the other Obituary. When he was asked the meaning of Obituary, he answered that it is a popular name normally announced in radio and television and published in Newspapers and posters. He added that this Obituary must be a Saint. When the twins celebrated their birthday, friends and well-wishers brought many coffins as gifts to the twins. Their parents began to wonder. Obi abandoned his twin brother Obituary and ran away. Till today his where about is yet unknown. The boy Obituary was mocked everywhere he went and people ran away from him. Whenever he entered a bus, all the passengers would disembark. He became sad and lonely.

One day he was sick. As he went into a hospital to see a doctor, he was not given attention as everybody took to his or her heels. Even the dead bodies in the mortuary stood up and ran away. Obituary became confused. He asked himself, "Why is everyone running away from me? Am I a witch? As he was advancing in studies, he looked for the meaning of Obituary in his Dictionary. It reads, "Notice of a person's death usually with a short biography." The boy became enraged. He rushed into the store and came out with fury brandishing a long knife. He stabbed his parents instantly. They were lying in the pool of their blood. The Obituary boy shouted, "Wicked parents! So you condemned me to death from my infancy. Let it be to you as you thought for me."

Each person has only two days to spend on earth: the Day of Birth and the Day of Birth. The first day is getting to an end. The second day is about to come at a time we least expect. Readiness is the watch-word. How ready are we? For some people, death is a blessing while it is a cause for some. With the Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, death is no more a cause but a blessing. There are temporal and eternal deaths. The former has to do with clinical death while the latter is known as everlasting death. Clinical death is a temporal separation. Everlasting death is being lost in hell. St. Paul makes it clear that judgment follows after death (Rom 14:12). After this comes reward or punishment. God as a just Judge will reward each and every one of us according to one's deeds (1 Cor. 3:15). Nothing impure will enter the Kingdom of God. No one is perfect, but we must continue to struggle every day to do good and avoid evil. Repentance is required of us where we have fallen. God is ever ready to welcome us back as the story of the Prodigal Son teaches (Luke 15). There is no repentance in the grave.

The month of November is dedicated to praying for the faithful departed in Purgatory who are suffering due to venial sins or punishment due to forgiven mortal sins. As we pray for them, we prepare for our own passage to eternity. May God find us ready when the time comes!

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