Recently, a friend of mine -Chris Chakwana- lost a close, childhood friend. It’s no wonder that Chris has been contemplating what really is the stuff of life. He shares his thoughts in this post and encourages us all to embrace the true substance of life, the things that really make a difference, while we can.
“At times it takes the death of someone really close to you, especially a friend or peer for you to reflect on the seriousness of life. Often we spend a greater part of our lives chasing things that are not of any value; things that make us appear better than our friends, our siblings, our workmates. At the end of the day, the things we spend a major part of our time chasing do not bring any spiritual fulfillment in our lives.
We make plans and even plan months and years ahead yet we forget that we are mortal beings whose days are numbered. We act like we have keys to this life, as if we are guaranteed that next week we will be alive even though tomorrow is not promised us. The fact that we are alive today or tomorrow is because of God’s grace. Whilst we plan, life is happening. Yes! Life is happening. Because life is what happens when you are busy planning other things. We tend to forget to appreciate the smaller pixels that build up the bigger picture.
Sitting in that funeral service of my former classmate and friend, hearing all those beautiful testimonies of his life and he had made a positive impact on people’s lives really got me thinking about what I have been doing with my own life. You know, funerals have this way of knocking sense into people’s lives, well, at least for those few days during and after the funeral. Going back to the beautiful testimonies that were said in the funeral service of this fine gentleman, my friend made me question one thing: did all these people, me included, ever bother to show appreciation for the wonderful things he did in our lives or when he was alive we were too busy to notice what he was doing? We took for granted that it was entitled to us. After all, he was our friend, church mate or sibling. What more could he have done?
Of what use is showing this appreciation now, when he is already gone and not there to see or listen to it? An occasional Whatsapp message, Facebook inbox or text message would have done the trick, to call and check up on him, to call and say, ‘Hie, how have you been and thank you for inspiring me in a, b, c ways!’ To find out how he was doing and most probably celebrate his personal achievements. Most of all: to be there, to be his friend. Now what is left are the constant eulogies that we sing in his absence, of what he did in our lives. The death of my friend also allowed me to reflect on my life: its direction or the lack of it. Just hearing the beautiful things he had done for people in his church, all of which were true considering I really knew the kind of character he was. Just then, sitting on that church bench, it suddenly hit me: I am going to die one day. Scary right?
The whole aspect of being locked up in a casket scares me but what I mean is one day my life and yours too will end. Will people celebrate my life and feel the loss of losing someone so dear to them, or will it be just be my family mourning, mainly because they have biological links with me? Will the mourning merely be out of a sense of duty? Will all the people I have encountered in my twenty-something years of existence from my high school days, teaching days and varsity days have something positive to say about me? Or will they just stammer and say something more abstract like, ‘Chris was just a complicated character that was misunderstood, may his dear soul rest in peace.’ Will they write a long epitaph whose length fills a volume of bond paper as thick as an Oxford thesaurus?
You see, life should be lived with an impact. It should not just be about me, myself and I but it should be about me and the community. I mean after all I am an African; the spirit of *ubuntu comes into play. In my view one’s success amounts to nothing if that individual has not made any positive impact on people’s lives. Remember its never really about the song’s lyrics but it has to do with the way the choir tunes their voices and the emotion they evoke in giving that melodious feel to the song. It’s never about the rhyme in the poem but the emotion and message that the poet conveys to the reader of the subject matter being discussed.
Maybe I am confusing you; after all, these are just random thoughts. All I am saying is that life is about making change in the world; doing something meaningful that leaves people’s lives better than you found them. It doesn’t really take too much effort such as writing a great inspirational speech like Martin Luther King, or staying in prison for a long period of time and forgiving the people that incarcerated you as Nelson Mandela did. No!!
It takes you using your time and effort in making the people around you smile and feel better about themselves. It takes you speaking words of encouragement to those that need them, sparing a minute to those that are alone and that merely need to be listened to. To me living a life that has a positive impact on people is a life well-lived. Above all, I believe life should be lived in close connection with the creator, Jehovah God. Constantly thanking Him for the little that you have, the precious life that He grants you every day. Trust me, it’s when you have encountered people that lead worse off lives than yours that you will see that God is at hand. I talk a lot. Let me stop here. In conclusion, stay strong no matter how difficult it becomes. Fight on and never give up on life!”
*Chris’ definition of ubuntu: living life for people because who and what I am affects you and vice versa; I am because we are.