DEATH IS AN INESCAPABLE reality and irreversible. It is also a great mystery which terrifies man. It is only experienced once and is therefore a bridge which crosses man over to another sphere of life. Alphonsus De Liguori is famous for his horrific teachings on death. He published a book titled, “Preparation for Death.” According to him, the nature of death is that it is “certain” and “uncertain.” It is certain that all of us shall die, but uncertain when we shall die. Hence, the former compels us to prepare for it, while the latter does not assure us of the time of its visit. 

Alphonsus teaches that man should rejoice at death for three reasons: “First, because death relieves him from labour; that is, from suffering the miseries of this life. Secondly, because it delivers him from actual sins. Thirdly, because it delivers him from the danger of falling into Hell, and opens paradise to him.” In his book, L’etre et le Neant (Being and Nothingness), Jean-Paul Sartre sees death as “the hopeless climax which throws the shadow of absurdity over all human existence,” and “the ultimate seal of vanity set upon the absurdity of existence.” He views death in the existence of man from an assiduous horizon. However, Karl Jasper perceives death as the most dramatic barrier to man’s life. He therefore emphasizes the urgency of living authentically without postponement.”

The African religious scholar, John S. Mbiti echoes that “death stands between the world of the human beings (known) and the world of the spirits (unknown).” This indicates that Africans believe that when one dies, one becomes a spirit but while still alive, one is still a human. Various names and titles of the Igbo people of the South-Eastern region of Nigeria reveals how conscious they are about death. These exclamations are: Onwukwe (death is a mystery), Onwudiegwu (death is awful), Onwubiko (death please), Onwuchekwe (death should wait), Onwudinjo (death is bad), Onwuegbula m (death spare), Onwuamadike (death does not know the valiant), Onwuamaeze (death does not consider status), and so on.

The characteristics of death

The nature of death is such that it has these various features such as, “universality”, “unavoidability”, “imminence”, “inexorability”, and “fearfulness”.

Universality: Death is a mystery that has been experienced by many people, and will be experienced by all peoples. It does not choose whom to strike or spare. It does not consider status, age, religion, race or personality. In a simple language, death does not compromise. Hence, a famous Latin dictum says: “Tempus fugit memento mortis” (As time flies, remember death).

Unavoidability: Death is an irreversible phenomenon that is certain, and as such, it cannot be escaped or avoided by anyone. Therefore, no power on earth can stop it. Even those who claim to be magicians that prolong life are ironically found to be prey to death. It takes no silver and wealth as a recompense or bribe. On his deathbed, Bob Marley’s last words to his son Ziggy in 1981 were, “Money cannot buy life.”

Imminence: The nature of death is imminent in the sense that some do not think of it often, while some do not think of it all. Some also think of it as something that is still far. That is why in most cases people pray for long life. Yet, the truth remains that death is not far away from man, for man is a being towards death. It only comes in time in order to lead man into eternity. Thus, an accurate account of human existence is not full or complete without proper attention to death, says Warren.

Inexorability: All men are mortal and the presence of death renders all men equal. It seeks no hierarchical preference. In some cases, individuals die while alone, at other times, people die together. Death has no particular way of striking. Therefore, it cannot be waged, and no one can claim to die twice, but once.

Fearfulness: It is natural that man’s thought about his own death evokes fear in him. Even the most courageous of men and women experience difficulty in confronting it. Consequently, death shakes us because it means the loss of life in a world we know so well, loss of our friends, and comfort. It also means the fear of the unknown and the unexplored. This only comes when one is living an unprepared life and a life of earthly comfort. Only few mystic souls so consumed with God can hardly wait to die and be with him.


Dear reader, death is only a sleep. The New Testament speaks of the dead as fallen asleep in the Lord” (cf.1.Thess. 4:14). Jesus teaches us that dying is a way to greater living and that death is really not death at all. When Jesus raised Lazarus and Jarius daughter, He said, “Do not weep they were asleep.” This shows that we are still alive after the death of the body and we shall one day live again in the spirit. Death thus, affects only the body, it has nothing to do with the soul.

Beloved, death is not to be feared. It ought to be looked forward to with great anticipation. It is an end to the body, but not an end to the soul. It is a beginning of a new phase of life in another existence. We must therefore be always prepared through daily striving for perfection. For holiness makes us bold in identifying ourselves with our Creator, it leads to joyful and fulfilled death and it gives one the hope of been with God for eternity.

Once a man is alive, he is a being towards death. In fact, what proves that a man ever existed in history is the fact that he died. St. Pope John-Paul II therefore states that death should be welcomed with great joy. Hence, the wise man lives every day of his life as though it will be his last.

For all the faithful who have died, especially those who are dear to us; our parents, grandparents, relatives and friends. Those who did good to us while on earth, those who helped us by their prayers, sacrifice and example. Those who may have done us harm, and stand in special need of our forgiveness. We pray, that through the merits of the Saints and Angels and through the intercession of Mary our Merciful Mother, they may be delivered from their sins and come to share in the glory of His victory over sin and death. Amen…

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