Death has remained a huge existential mystery. The reason is simple: death is like a final and irreversible annihilation of one’s life. It strikes the “off” button, thus casting darkness forever upon the life of an individual. Death is that force that extinguishes in time the fire of life, wiping out from sight the image and motions of a hitherto living individual.
Death is that most dreaded finalizing phase of our earthly sojourn. It is that dooming anti-climax that ends the life’s story of every living human. The calamity of death is completely affirmed by the fact that it is unavoidable. It is that ultimate dark end awaiting all humans!
The mystery of death lies in the fact that no one has fully understood what it means to die. Does it mean transition from our corporeal form to another form? Does it mean a departure to heaven or hell? Does it mean a temporary break to be followed by reincarnation for another earthly life? Or does it mean an eternal complete annihilation whereby there’s no existence of whatever shape thenceforth? Humans have answered these questions in the affirmative depending on one’s belief system and philosophy of life. Yet, these questions remain ultimately unanswered being that no sufficient evidence has been adduced in support of any of the answers advanced.
This lack of evidence is principally due to the fact that no one has actually died and come back. Yes, no one has ever crossed the border between life and death and made a successful return journey. We have heard stories of people who “died” and came back to life. Some of the accounts involved people who were confirmed clinically dead, only for them to become alive again!
Popular Nollywood actor, Jerry Amilo, told of how he was pronounced dead and his body deposited in a mortuary after he was involved in a fatal car accident along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, but was eventually to live. According to him, the mortuary attendant had discovered his “corpse” making jerky movements which made him took to his heels due to fear. It was some National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) doctors serving at the hospital that mustered courage saying they would like to see whatever “spirit” manifesting in the mortuary. These young doctors found him alive and he was taken to a bigger hospital where he regained consciousness two days later.
However, Amilo’s account did not show that he had any extra-mundane encounter throughout the time he was unconscious. This is unlike some other persons who actually described their experiences in the “land of the dead” before they regained consciousness. A lot of such stories have been told. Some individuals told how they found themselves in a very strange realm but eventually something intervened to halt their forward movement, returning them to earthly consciousness.
Some said they encountered Jesus Christ who asked them to return to life, that it was not yet time for them to leave the land of the living. This was the account given by Chief G.A.D. Tabansi-Okoye, the Anambra State-born millionaire businessman who owned the popular Tabansi Records that made vibes in the Nigerian music industry in the 1980s and early 1990s.
He had undergone a surgery in the early 1960s at the popular Toronto Hospital, Onitsha, whereupon he was pronounced dead. He said while unconscious he had met Jesus Christ who turned him back as he made his journey to an unknown destination, telling him to return to earth and warn humans to repent and ask for God’s mercy. A similar story was told by a female lecturer at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) who said she found herself at a very magnificent airport with many travellers trooping in.
Then, she met Padre Pio (an Italian Catholic saint from Italy reputed for his holy life and miraculous manifestations when he was alive). Padre Pio was holding golden chaplets and gave one of the chaplets to her and asked her to go back, that it was not yet time to die.
One popular attempt to scientifically view the phenomenon of people “dying” and returning to life was made by Raymond Moody an American philosopher and psychologist, whose research involved accounts of people who had “died” and returned to life. Moody published his research in a 1975 book titled LIFE AFTER LIFE, where a total of 150 accounts were collected across cultures of the world.
Strikingly, the accounts of the individuals had a similar pattern. They said they experienced themselves weightless and floating while traveling, usually through a long tunnel. So blissful was their experience that they would not want to return to their earthly life. However, something intervened to halt their journey and return them to life, thus ending their newfound joy.
Nonetheless, despite all the claims that have been made about what happens at death, we humans still look upon death with awe and trembling. Nobody is yet very sure of what the experience over there is like, that is, if there’s any experience at all. One thing to observe in all the accounts is that none of the individuals said he/she actually made it to the great beyond. Their journey was invariably intercepted and reversed along the way. So, they never made it to death!
If they had traveled, their travel got terminated halfway. This is why their experience is known in mystical literature as “near death experience”. They never experienced death, at best they “nearly” experienced it (if there is anything like nearly experiencing death). So, we have not yet heard any account of death from someone who has actually experienced death. Therefore, the mystery of death remains with us.
This is why no matter how much people affirm that they’re sure of what happens to them upon death, of where they will go when they die, they still get terribly scared when confronted by death. We all dread death even when we claim that death opens the door to a blissful and peaceful life in Paradise. We run without looking back whenever our life is threatened. Even people who preach to you about better life in heaven will compete with you for the best things of earthly life and will even do terrible things to gain advantage over you. Why?
The reason is that the earthly life we have, its goods, joys and pleasures are the ONLY one we are completely sure of; we’re not COMPLETELY SURE of what happens thereafter. We’re not so certain of what becomes of us upon death. That’s why we do everything to hang on to live irrespective of its many imperfections and pains. That’s why we hold on to earthly pleasure; wealth, comfort, children etc even when we profess that there are incomparably better things after death. Death remains a huge mystery!