Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaMonday, December 7, 2015




n a certain mid-day, I was relaxing with my friend. After diluting a delicious menu with a cold bottle of small stout, I dosed off on my armless chair. Within some seconds, I started snoring like a local pig. I was dreaming sweet dreams. After about fifteen minutes of dosing, I was awakened by the call of nature. I jumped up like a film-star. I saw a paper placed on my chest as I was sleeping. On it was written R.I.P. As I was wondering the origin of the paper and its inscription, my friend, who was drinking the third bottle of beer, started laughing sarcastically at me. I shouted at him saying, "Please, if this is a joke stop it! How can you place R.I.P on my body when I am still alive?" He laughed loudly and pointed at me saying, "There is no difference between sleep and death. When you dosed off, I wished you well by placing R.I.P on your chest. When you are sleeping, are you not resting in peace?" I threw the R.I.P paper at him and shouted, "Back to sender!" In order to forget the ugly episode, I drank cold bottle of Orijin beer. Afterwards, I regained my original self.

After my friend left, I started to reflect on R.I.P. In those good old days when looking at album of pictures added colour to every family visit, I first saw the inscription R.I.P. written on the image of a deceased person. When I inquired about its meaning, they told me it means 'Rest In Peace.' As a child growing up by then, I said that I also want to rest in peace so that sickness will not disturb me again. My mother overheard what I said and she turned sharply towards me and shouted, "Shut up! God forbid! Do you want me to be childless? You will live long so that you can take care of me during my old age."

Last week I traveled to Arondizuogu for the burial Mass of a hero of the Gospel of Christ. He died on active service to God and humanity. Tears were running down the cheeks of almost everybody in the church. Even the priest who was the chief celebrant couldn't control his tears as he eulogized the deceased, who left indelible legacies behind. The man died in his mid-fifties. Even the animals in that town were mourning that day. The birds of the air flew at mid air and were singing sorrowful dirges. The summary was that a great and good man died suddenly. As the church service was over, the priests, religious and lay people accompanied the casket to the ambulance. The choir was singing "Rest in peace a gallant soldier of Christ." The inscription 'R.I.P' was carved on top of the casket. As the ambulance began to move to the deceased home for burial, all were crying and chorusing 'Rest in Peace.' Instantly, a certain young fat man with tears in his eyes wanted to cross a small gutter. Unfortunately his fatness couldn't allow him. He fell right inside the gutter like a huge log of wood. The fat man struggled to get out from the gutter but he could not. His colleagues laughed at him and shouted, "Rest in peace!" (in the gutter?). He fired back, "Not my portion." At last he was helped out by some huge boys.

A jester in a rural area bought a taxi and inscribed on both sides of the car, "R.I.P." By this he meant that his taxi is very comfortable and air-conditioned. When you enter it, you do not feel like coming out. You just dose off. Every day he goes to the garage to load his taxi for daily bread. Only few passengers take courage to enter his car. The illiterate passengers comfortable enter, ignorant of its inscription. One day, the driver loaded seven passengers instead of the normal five. Along the way he was accosted by policemen who accused him of carrying excess passengers. An argument arose between him and the policemen. He said to them, "Officers, I am not carrying passengers but corpses. Please don't disturb them because they are resting in peace. My car is an official ambulance as you can see what is written on both sides." At this time, the passengers were all sleeping. As the policemen opened one of the car's doors for closer examination, one of the sleeping passengers sneezed thrice. Instantly the R.I.P taxi driver and his passengers, alive or dead, were whisked off by the policemen to the Police Station for further enquiry.

Yes, whether we like it or not, we must die. That is certain. But what we are not certain of is when, how and where we shall die. When will you die? How will you die? Where will you die? If you can give accurate answers to these three questions, then see me and collect an attractive prize. Would you prefer that God reveals the day, the month and the year each of us will die? If this is done, the world will retrogress instead of progressing. Everyone will just relax and wait for the time to die. If you already know that you will die next week, why dig foundation today for a three storey house? Why going into the university to study to become a medical doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a journalist, etc, when you know already that your death is so imminent? Do not be deceived by false prophets and sorcerers. The Lord Jesus Christ himself without mincing words says, "But as for that Day and that Hour, no one knows when it will come, not even the angels of God nor the Son, but only the Father"(Mtt. 24:36).

The next question is: How shall we die? The answer is Anyhow. It can be through illness, accident, sleep, slumping, etc. The recent death of the All Progressive Congress candidate, Prince Audu Abubarkar, in the 21 November 2015 Gubernatorial Poll in Kogi State threw Nigerians into confusion. As the politician sat in his house on the following day being Sunday, friends and well-wishers were trooping into his house to congratulate him for taking a lead against his opponent in the just inconclusive election. It was narrated that he stood up to go into his room. The unforeseen happened. He slumped there and died. What a mysterious death! Was he suffering from a life threatening ailment? The only answer is that his time was up. Once the final bell rings, there is no excuse. Some persons just sleep and die like that without any premonition. No wonder my friend is convinced there is no difference between sleep and death. We have died as many times as we have slept. Our Igbo adage says, "Ura ga-eju ozu afo." Literally, it means that a corpse will sleep satisfactorily. So, if you are not having enough sleep, when you die you will sleep till eternity.

As to where we shall die, most people would prefer a decent place. A friend told me that he would like to die in a flying aero-plane so that he would fly from there into heaven. Just recently in Egypt, the terrorists planted a bomb in a Russian Airline flying from Egypt to Russia. Within the Sinai vicinity in Egypt, the bombed exploded in mid-air. The 224 passengers and crew died instantly. They died in aero-plane but as a result of human wickedness. May they rest in peace! Another says that she would like to die in the church so that she will have direct entry into heaven. My question is: Is it possible to die in the church (the house of God) and go to hell? It has been reported that someone was born in the church and died in the house of prostitutes. Probably he went there to convert the prostitutes. Lord, have mercy! The other time I told you that a person was born in the kitchen and died in the toilet. Did he die well? Last week a bus load of Catholic men and women from St Gregory's Parish Nanka were returning from Nawfija after a condolence visit. Between Ajalli and Akpu in Orumba, Anambra State, the worst happened. A tipper driver soaked in Indian hemp and alcohol rammed into them. About twelve men and women died at the spot. The mad driver escaped unhurt. What a tragedy! May God console the bereaved families and heal the wounded! May the long arm of the Law deal with the mad driver wherever he is now! May God grant the unfortunate dead Christians eternal rest! Amen. Life has no duplicate. If you drink or smoke hard drugs, please do not drive. If you want to die carelessly, please go and commit suicide, instead of sending innocent people to their untimely graves. Drivers of articulated vehicles be very careful.

After death comes judgment, reward or punishment. I am not afraid of death. My fear lies in the uncertainty of what comes after because of human imperfection. If I am very sure of going to heaven immediately, then what am I doing here? The Holy Scripture tells us that nothing impure will enter the Kingdom of God and that some will be saved but through fire (cf. 1 Cor. 3:15 - 16). "Nothing unclean will enter it, or anyone who does what is evil and false but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" (Rev. 21:17). The Book of Daniel puts it more specifically, "Then all those whose names are written in the Book will be saved. Many of those who sleep in the Region of the Dust will awake, some to everlasting life but others to eternal horror and shame" (Daniel 12:1 - 2). I have been searching in the bookshops nationwide for this Book of Life to enter my name in it, but I have not seen one. Please could you help me find the Book?

Indeed I am afraid. When I examine myself, I see impurities here and there. What of you? That is why I am convinced that if God does not temper justice with mercy, Heaven will be empty. From the Book of Daniel quoted above, some of us will rest in peace while some will rest in pieces. Hence the inscription R.I.P means either Rest In Peace or Rest In Pieces. So, think of these two meanings whenever you see R.I.P. Will you and I rest in peace or in pieces? We are now in the season of Advent, which is a 4-week preparation for Christmas and for the Second Coming of Christ. How prepared are we to meet the Lord? Lord, have mercy!