Only One Life?

If this were my last breath, what would I do with it?

If this were my last breath, what would I do with it? What do I want to do with my life or rather what do I want to do with the remaining part of my life.

Growing up in Nigeria, there were two things I really wanted in life. Being the youngest of six siblings, I wanted a baby sister to love and care for. My plan was this – to give my mom a portion of my plate of white rice and stew. I planned to do this for a period of time after which in my understanding, she would become pregnant and give birth to a baby girl. Little did I know that rice doesn’t produce babies. After doing this for a long time, her tummy wasn’t expanding. One day, I asked why she hadn’t become pregnant. It was a question that never received an answer.

The other thing I wanted in life was an air plane: to fly my mom and my baby sister to see the world.

It’s been over thirty years since I had these desires. None of those became a reality. What do I want to do with the remaining part of my life?

The past week has been a sad and difficult one for all of us as 15 of our young ones died in Humboldt. We do not ask for whom does the bell toll. It tolls for thee. We are in this together. The pain and sorrows of Humboldt is ours, too.

As tears roll down the cheeks, the question the parents and all of us ask is, why… why….? Why O Lord? Some parents wondered, if the universe is getting back at them for something they did in a previous life or something their sons did in a previous life, or somehow, they harmed somebody that’s the reason for this….. “Maybe if it was just my child,” a dad asked in sorrow. “But it was 15 other families. There’s no reason there. You can’t rationalize it.”

After the coroner had met with the families, he said to them: “Be prepared. Some of your sons aren’t going to look like what they used to look like.” A Dad said they identified their son by the small birth mark on his right cheek. “I kissed him, kept telling him I loved him. That’s probably all I said to him.”

As if that was not enough, a few days after the Humboldt accident, I received a message that my friend’s two brothers drowned in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. My friend asked me: “Why would God allow such a heavy hammer to strike us at this time?” What could I say to my friend. I do not know the answer to that question. I only sent words of love to him and assured him that I’ll journey with him in prayer and love. It’s hard! It’s difficult! Just a week ago, he and his family of eight visited me here in Creston for Easter. They came Thursday before Easter and left on Monday after Easter.

On Holy Saturday, as I was preparing breakfast, my friend came to the kitchen. As we joked and ate plantain, we spent quite some time talking about one of the seven words of Jesus on the Cross – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” Little did we know that 8 days after that discussion, he, too, will be asking the same question that Jesus asked.

The events of the past days have made me to step back and ask again: what is the meaning of life; one moment I’m here and the next I’m gone.

I received a card this Easter that said: “Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Jesus will last…” I want to add to that. Only what’s done for Jesus and the brothers and sisters of Jesus will last, for Jesus said – “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

My mom; does she really need an airplane? Not really. Recently I just sent her a small gift of love for Mother’s Day (Mother’s Day in Nigeria is celebrated the Sunday nearest to March 25. March 25 is the day we celebrate the annunciation of Angel Gabriel to Mary that she would be the Mother of God). It was a gift reminding her of how much I love and appreciate her. My sister phoned me and said that was the best Mother’s Day my Mom ever had.

It is the little things in life, done with love that matter. Taking the time to thank the people in your life, to let them know they are loved and appreciated. To thank with a smile the person in the grocery store putting your groceries in the bag. To smile at the person you meet on the street. To cross the street to welcome the new neighbour. To phone that friend, that family member, that cousin you haven’t spoken to for a while.

Life is short…. sometimes it’s like a dream in the night. What legacy am I going to leave?

I received a beautiful piece from a friend titled ‘The Train’ It ends in these words: “…. So we must live in the best way, love, forgive and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life. Who has been the most important person with you on the train? No matter how big their role, remember to thank those who were with you on your journey.”

Only one life? On this side of the shore, yes. But there’s another day in paradise. Every life is a beautiful gift from God. It is surely true – and we know this instinctively as well as from our experience – that every true gift has been given for ever.

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