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Opinion

Opinion: Death Everywhere

By Francis Ewherido

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Marriage

My brother-in-law and friend, Emma Ekene Onuorah, came around last Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, the news of the death of Yinka Odumakin, Vanguard columnist and Afenifere spokesman, and Sam Obi, former acting governor of Delta State had broken.

Ekene himself is bereaved; he lost his mother a few weeks ago. And while we were together, I went to my Facebook page and behold the news of the death of Chief Dolor Ihwughwavwe, the owner of the funeral home which handled my father-in-law’s burial in February last year.

Facebook has become a harbinger of the news of death. I now approach my Facebook page with caution. On March 16, I was just scrolling through my Facebook page when the news jumped out. “Segun Odubela, SAN, is dead.” I dug further, it was the same Olusegun John Odubela. He was our family friend. We got to know him through our brothers and sisters (adding “in-law” diminishes the unbelievable relationship the Ewheridos share with the House of Solomon, the family of Oba Solomon Babayemi, the late Olufin of Gbongan) from Osun State.

I called Omoba Dotun Babayemi, the closest person in the family to Odubela, he did not respond, he was overwhelmed by the loss of a friend, turned brother, of about four decades. Odubela was 55 years.

“Why we dey hear news of death everywhere? Na so we go continue to hear news of death? E no be like this before o,” Ekene lamented. “E be like say we go dey hear news of death every time o. We don dey old nah,” I responded. As we continued talking, one thing became clear: in our younger days we heard less news of deaths and even fewer deaths affected us. Now in our 50s, people we know who are in their 40s are dying, our contemporaries in their 50s are dying and people ahead of us in age are dying. We are talking of family members, friends, former colleagues, neighbours and people we have been hearing about from afar.

Bereavement is a huge burden. Very few people get used to it. When it hits another person, it is easy to offer condolences and words of consolation, but when it hits you, you understand the true meaning of B-E-R-E-A-V-E-M-E-N-T. I will not dwell on bereavement here. I do not want bereaved people to recall the pains, the trauma, the profound sense of loss, the helplessness, the depression.

Incidentally, like death, it is an experience everyone will taste at some point in life, including those who brought it upon others. Even those who behave as if they have the power of life and death will die someday.

Some of these deaths like accidents due to bad roads, poor health facilities, assassinations and death via violent attacks, are outside the control of the victims, but I believe some deaths are avoidable, at least in the interim, and we need to get more serious and cut off some of these avoidable deaths. On many occasions, I have focussed on people of my generations on this column. Once you hit 40 years, you need lifestyle changes. You must be conscious of your higher susceptibility to ailments like cancer, stroke, heart failure, diabetes and now COVID-19.

Talking of COVID-19, it is very painful that some of those who have contacted it and died were those who were most careful and complied with the necessary prevention protocols. One little slip, most times unknowingly, and that was it.

Anyway, a young man suddenly slumped and died in Lagos some time ago. The cause of death was not disclosed, but it is likely to be heart failure or heart attack. He has been under immense pressure because he and his family were living beyond their means.

The children were in schools where they struggled to meet up with the fees and he lived in a part of Lagos where annual rents are sometimes denominated in US dollars.  His children’s annual school bills and his annual rent combined could have built a modest storey building, excluding cost of land. He was permanently playing catch up. He probably caved in under the financial pressure.

That death was avoidable. For the rest of us, please before you engage in a new venture that requires periodic expenditure (school fees and house rent, especially), be sure you can sustain it over time even if you are financially low.

Still on finance, you need not throw a party for every birthday in your household. It is not even compulsory to throw a party on a milestone birthday. Just get a cake, drinks and food for the household and you are just fine. Live within your means at all times. Do not spend unless you earn and keep your expenses below your earnings at all times and you will just be fine. All ceremonies – weddings, burials, etc – should be done within available resources. It is always wonderful to be debt-free after a ceremony.

 We just entered the second quarter of 2021. Remember to plan for your annual check-up. Annual check-up is a must once you are 50. After 40 years, keep an eye on your prostrate. I recommend you check it at least twice a year. You can do direct rectal examination (DRE) first and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) six months later or vice versa.

Monitoring your blood pressure, especially if you have issues with your blood pressure, should be regular, if not daily. Everyone should have a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) at home. Take your BP drugs religiously. I prefer the drugs that are labelled Monday to Sunday. It helps to ensure you do not miss any day.

If you are diabetic or you have issues with sugar, you have to be extremely disciplined. There is nothing like I have a sweet tooth or I am addicted to cake or any food item with loads of sugar. Kill that addiction before it kills you.  Since I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, I have abandoned all sugar-related fetishes. Consequently, for more than a year now, I have also gone off diabetes drugs. I use food (mainly oat, unripe plantain, crackers biscuit, beans, vegetables and moin-moin) to control my sugar.

Once in a rare while, I go outside these foods above to break the routine. My only drink now is water. Virtually all drinks contain sugar and I stay off other drinks as much as possible. Champagne is now for toast only and I take a little red wine once in a blue moon, but that is it. Some people will feel that it is monotonous lifestyle, but I am healthier and that is all that counts. Also remember to have your blood sugar monitor, and monitor your blood sugar level regularly.

Most men who are 40 and above are overweight. That is bad enough. Many are obese and that is not good enough. Obesity puts extra weight on your ankles, knees and lower back. It also makes your internal organs to be overworked. Obesity can increase your blood pressure, cause type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Shed weight, be extremely disciplined with food; watch what you eat and the quantity of food you consume. You must also exercise. Unfortunately, many of people in their 50s and above struggle with exercising. I too do, but we must do as much as we can. There is no way around it. The experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise daily, mainly brisk walks or aerobics. Many of us do not do that much, but do as much as you can. Total inactivity is not an option; it means dying slowly without being conscious of it.

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