Last week we buried my uncle (for the purpose of our Zambian tradition where everyone is an uncle, I mean my mother’s brother). At the same time, my sister buried her husband’s sister. Yesterday, we found out a close family friend’s brother had died.

Death, they say, is a natural progression of life. But we like to think that death comes at the end, when you’ve lived your life, when you’ve enjoyed your life. Looking at the people I know who have died in the last week, that isn’t always the case.

When people die, we feel sad, we mourn their life, we ask God why He had to take them away, we try to accept that it was their time and we need to move on with our lives. We feel for those who have lost a life partner – a husband or a wife, those who have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, shake our head, say a prayer, and move on with our life. Unless it’s an immediate loved one, we easily move on with our lives, and hope for the best for those who have been left behind.

From my experience, those who have been left behind, focus on the death, sometimes unable to move on, hoping to find an answer as to why the person died. In my own life, I’ve lost (why do we say that, like they’ve been misplaced?) two brothers, now two uncles, a nephew, a best friend, and numerous aquaintance. My reaction to their deaths is based on my relationship with them. One brother, I felt like I lost a part of me, but I was also riddled with guilt – had I done enough for him while he was alive, sadly I always knew the answer was no. And even in his death, I’m failing to honor his memory properly – but that’s another blog.

Now, as I’m older, I look at death in a different way, a reminder to live life – every day. With my uncle’s passing, which was truly tragic, because it didn’t have to be, he died alone – none of us as his family there, all getting on with our lives, always thinking there was tomorrow to see him, tomorrow to check on him, tomorrow to pay him attention, tomorrow for anything he might need. Yet we all forgot the fundamental words – that the present, is a gift.

We do this all the time, take the present for granted. Always thinking about tomorrow. There are definitely times when you need to think about tomorrow, if it’s about finances, or education, or a career, but when it comes to relationships, tomorrow is definitely not something we should worry about. Relationships are very much in the present, and that’s all relationships you value be it a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, parent, or child, or sibling. Those you can’t get back tomorrow.

Even as I write this, I struggle questioning my own relationship, looking at the flaws and wondering if I can deal with them, as opposed to looking at the positives and recognising the fact that this might not be the ideal relationship I always dreamt of, but that it is the perfect relationship I’ve been in my whole life. Should I keep looking at tomorrow for the answer or enjoy the present I have in my life today?

We always question the meaning of life, asking what our purpose on life is, but we can go through all of life only to die without knowing our purpose. Perhaps our purpose is in death, to remind those who live to truly live life and know what we value in life before we die and are returned to the earth.

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