Death, be not Proud

Most probably by the time you read through this Message of Condolence, government of the Republic of South Africa would have announced the date on which the late Minister of Public Administration Mr. Collins Chabane, who died in a motor vehicle accident between Polokwane and Mokopane in the company of his driver and security bodyguard on Sunday morning, would be laid to rest. The trio died after their SUV rammed into a truck allegedly making a u-turn on the N1 highway.

On the occasion following the Deputy President Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the families of the late Sergeants Lentsoane and Sekele – dates for their funeral and burial services were announced as Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

On my own behalf and on behalf of both my family and the Foundation for Leadership Excellence whose Board of Directors I now chair following the end of my employment contract at the SACC, I join the millions of South Africans and indeed of Africa, to convey my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the all the bereaved families.

It is my solemn prayer that they could, in the midst of all this confusion, still find little sense in what has happened to the lives of those whom they so much loved and wished to have had longer time with them in this life. Our own socialisation is that we weep, wail and cry out loud when such as this incident has happened in our lives. And unless we view death as a spiritual enemy to the human soul, we are never able to appreciate it weakness and callousness.

To qualify this, let me wade through and indulge in Prof. Sam Maluleke’s credible work both as a renowned theologian and an astute scholar. His contestation is that death is heartless; it is insensitive, cruel and cold. When it strikes, it does so without pity or sympathy. It celebrates its short-lived victory when our misty eyes are filled with tears and our hearts bleed to the very last drop of our blood. Other than this, death has nothing more to show that it is indeed triumphant.

The regularity and consistency at which we die is highly concerning as Maluleke argues. We die when we are in our deep sleep; we die when we are awake; we die when we are in love; we die when we are on the road to visit our loved ones or to construct the future of our country in meetings; we die of diseases some of which medical science is unable to defeat; we die at weddings where everyone else is in a jovial mood; like the author Professor Brink of Stellenbosch we die even when we are aboard an aircraft. We die in war against others. We just die, die and die.

And as we mourn the death of Minister Chabane, Sergeants Lentsoane and Sekele, let us also pause for a moment just to think about those who die and no one is able to identify who they are…where they come from. Let us use this moment of silence to remember families that are bereaved, known and unknown to some of us.

If we do this, our collective mournful dirge will soon become our song of dance and merry because death was long defeated. Unlike the bee, it has no sting. As the English Poet John Donne said,

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poorer death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures bee,

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and souls delivered.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,

And poppie, or charms can make us sleep as well,

And better then thy stroke; why swell’st thou then;

One shot sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shall die.”

May the souls of the departed rest in peace and rise in glory among the faithful of God on the Day of Resurrection. Amen

Leave a Comment