This question surely does not have a straightforward answer. In fact, if you ask ten people this question, you may get ten different answers. I suspect the reason is because the issue of death is often viewed from different perspectives – religious, medical, psychological and sociological.
What is however crystal clear is that despite advancements in technology, bio-technology and even genetics, science has not been able to find a way to stop people from ageing and therefore dying. There is also no scientific way of preventing accidental mishaps resulting in fatalities.
So, why exactly am I bothering about this seemingly pointless question? A couple of weeks ago, I was shocked beyond words when I read on the social media that an old schoolmate and friend of mine, Adeola Adedini Awe, had died. We were course-mates at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, from 1996 to 1998.
‘Deola (as she was fondly called) was a very pleasant, super friendly, ever bubbly and a gregariously outgoing lady. She was always with a smile on her face and was ever ready to share a chat with anyone. I had not seen her since we left journalism school but we had somehow managed to keep in touch in recent years, thanks to social media. She was a mother of three lovely young children; and from her social media posts and my online interactions with her, she had remained the very amiable character she had been while we were in school.
You can, therefore, imagine how I felt when I saw the Facebook post that she had passed on. It was a bolt from the blue that momentarily stopped me in my tracks as I gazed at my laptop screen. After a few enquiries, I indeed confirmed that she was no more. I asked rhetorically, how could it be? Why? What happened?
These are the same questions most of us ask when we lose someone close to us. Sometimes, we get answers, but they are never satisfying because it is difficult accepting the reality that our loved ones have to die. But the truth is that death is an unavoidable certainty for all humans – and it can come anytime to anybody, irrespective of age or status.
According to Wikipedia, about 150,000 people die each day around the world from all causes, despite the fact that life expectancies have increased in the developed and even the developing countries. Thankfully, however, despite the limitations of science, it has also been proven that a lot can still be done to not only extend our lifespan but to make such existence healthy, active and enjoyable.
Researches have shown that by ensuring appropriate nutrition, lifestyle, hygiene, sanitation and quality healthcare, people can live long and well before bidding this planet earth goodbye. While growing up, I often heard this Yoruba saying from the elderly in our community on cleanliness and healthy living: “Imototo bori arun mole, bi oye tin bori oru” – which literally means that, with proper sanitation, you can completely obliterate disease, just like harmattan subdues hot weather condition.
This saying has stayed with me and made me sometimes seem unduly rigid on issues of hygiene. The fact is that most bacterial and viral infections that sometimes become fatal can be prevented with proper hygiene habits. As we learnt during the Ebola outbreak, in Nigeria, regular hand washing can help prevent so many deadly health conditions.
The importance of health education cannot be overemphasised, either. The fact is that, with proper health information, many of the health conditions resulting in untimely deaths can be properly managed, even if not cured, especially when discovered on time. Thus, we all must cultivate the habit of regular medical check-ups to know our health status and then do the needful, based on qualified physician’s advice.
Good nutrition is equally important in our quest to live long and live well. The saying that “you are what you eat” has never been truer, as recent researches have confirmed that most diseases can be prevented and even managed with the right nutritional habit. Some of the non-communicable diseases that are rampant today have strong links with wrong nutrition habits. It is therefore important to stress that eating the right food prevents disease and enhances long life.
Very crucial to longevity of life also is a sound healthcare system. To this end, I urge the Nigerian government to do all that is needed to place the health sector on a solid pedestal that will ensure that sick Nigerians have hospitals with the capacity to prevent deaths from conditions that are not beyond medical intervention.
Most importantly, all Nigerians must realise that health is a personal thing and individuals must cultivate good healthcare habits to ensure not just a long but a happy and healthy life.
Adieu my friend, Adeola Adedini Awe. May your gentle soul rest in peace.