There are two greatest and most valuable possessions in life. One is tangible and the other is intangible. If you lose the intangible one you die immediately. If you lose the tangible one you will and can still live for several years. Most invariably though the tangible one usually outlives you and it is such that it is available for others to inherit.
The breath of life is a most prized possession. It is indeed priceless. But we pray every day that we should not lose it. You breathe it in and breathe it out. It is almost invisible to the naked eye. One moment you have it; the next moment you don’t. And when you lose it, it is ‘bye bye’ to living. And as Femi Osofisan inserted in my Daily Times column 43 years ago ‘no one leaves this life alive!’
It is the tangible possession which forms the central issue of this discourse. Of all the most important tangible possessions a child is the most prized. We pray for riches, positions, power, influence and a house of our own, it is the blessing of the womb that we crave the most. When we ask to be blessed with a good husband or wife what follows the prayer is the request for a child or children. No marriage is complete without a child or children.
We have always known that our buildings, our offices and our positions, our businesses including factories and industries will outlive us. Almost all cultures and all languages have proverbs and expressions articulating that truism. But hardly do we think of the fact that sooner or later we shall leave the most important of them all; our children.
It is my wife that really drew my attention and consciousness to this obvious reality. I recall that in those days anytime my father spoke of death I would tell him ‘not yet’. And he would retort, ‘where is my father? Where is my mother?’ Little did it occur to me that what the old man was actually saying was that sooner or later he would no longer have us his children for company.
My wife would say ‘we really do not have much to spend with these children; may be another 20 to 30 years tops’. So, we may not have these lovely children for company much longer. If you are 70 or 75, you would be lucky if you see your children for another 20 or 15 years before they pour dust on your face in the grave. If such children live a distance of some 200 kilometres away from where you live and they pay you visits once a month or once in two months, you may not actually see them for more than 240 times before the end comes! It sounds simple and ordinary. But we hardly think about it, and it does not register in our consciousness. This may be due to the fact that we have been preparing for this ‘loss’ since the time the children leave the house to start their own families. Men or fathers generally do not have the kind of emotional and sentimental attachment women and mothers have for their children. This could also be a natural consequence of carrying the unborn babies in the womb for 9 months. The same reason birds that fly do not have any emotional attachment which hens and ducks and other domesticated birds have. All female animals that carry pregnancies are strongly attached to their newly born and are ferociously protective of them. One wonders how wonderful Nature is. It encourages you to labour that much to reproduce yourself by having children, makes you labour so much to bring them up and yet limits the time you both would spend together as parent and child. The joy then is not just the few years may be 25 to 30 that you see much of each other but the thought that long after you would have been gone you have some children, grandchildren and great grandchildren carrying on the banner of your own existence.
This is what you do not get from positions and offices acquired. If you are a Senator or Governor or President the moment you leave the office or the office leaves you that is the end of your chapter. By the way is it really worth it to get killed or get one killed for you in your desperation to possess a position or an office?
Any time you are leaving your house to go to work does it always cross your mind that you may never return to that building alive, if you ever return at all? And whenever you close at work, even your own factory or company, do you look back on the gate and say ‘it will be by the grace of God that I shall return here tomorrow’.
Thus we have two most important possessions that we cannot determine for how long we shall have them! The breath of life which is not tangible and yet most vital of all possessions and the child which is tangible and joy giving are not ours to hold ad infinitum. As I write these lines I am very conscious that I may not have long to spend and share with the second most prized gifts Olodumare has blessed me with. And this applies to any one above 70 years of age. Of course it may apply to anyone who is a parent regardless of age. The Supreme Essence which is ageless and timeless is not in the business of calculating years.
We humans created time and dates. For the Supreme Essence that has no beginning or end, it really does not matter when that Essence recalls you from the field of play. Tragically, it may even be the child your gift of inestimable value that may first kiss you ‘good bye’!
Come to think of it, there are many issues that we gloss over and take for granted. We hardly have time for philosophical engagements or reflections. So many ordinary things of life, so many things we see and hear every day but we take them all in our stride without exploring their significance or deeper meaning and implication.
Come to think of it. Look at your wife or husband and imagine how many active years you both have to share together. Look at your children and imagine how many years you are likely to share company. Look at your Club members, remember all those you started the Club with and look at how many of you remain. As you share drinks and food and crack jokes imagine for how long you would share such fun.
Come to think of it. Do you remember ABC in your Church or Mosque?
Come. Think. That breath of life. That child. Time.
The pen is the tongue of the hand,the silent utterer of words for the eyes…Henry Beecher