The last words of the dying

There is something mystical about the last words or actions of a dying person. Well, I guess they never realise that they are saying their last words on the humanly earth or performing their last acts but after they have passed on, it suddenly strikes that there was an element of premonition in what they did or said.
Paul Ntambara
Paul Ntambara

There is something mystical about the last words or actions of a dying person. Well, I guess they never realise that they are saying their last words on the humanly earth or performing their last acts but after they have passed on, it suddenly strikes that there was an element of premonition in what they did or said.

The late Professor Francis Imbuga used the premonition device in his writings so much that when his time came he used it to foretell his own death! During one of his last interviews within his native Kenya, a reporter insisted on holding the interview at the professor’s home ‘[to] get an opportunity to sample his rich library’ to which Imbuga replied: “When people begin insisting we have to go to my home, then death is coming.”

Death came and Imbuga died.

With the advent of social media, people have foretold their own deaths on social networking sites like Facebook. A notable example is of 24 year old Sarah Grooves, a British blogger who, while on vacation in Kashmir, India, was stabbed to death this week. Before her gruesome death she had posted on her Facebook page: ‘Quit your job, buy a ticket, fall in love... never return!’

She never returned.

While all these may be categorised as untimely deaths, last words from loved ones while they lie on their deathbeds come with an added meaning. In such a situation you expect anything to happen. The only similarity being that one never knows that they are hearing last words until death strikes. That’s the absurdity of human existence. My father’s last words for me while he lay on his hospital bed were ‘Go well’. Little did I know that he was bidding me farewell. He passed on.

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi introduced a whole new dimension to these final moments. Here there was no premonition; the victim knew that they were going to be killed because they were Tutsi. Death was hovering over the victim. The last words or actions were deliberate. A friend whose father was killed during the Genocide narrated to me the last moments with him.

“He bought me a bottle of Primus beer and told me that now I had become a man. He said he was not sure if he would be with me for long. He told me that if I survived, I should keep the family name. He was killed in the courtyard and I survived. These words still echo in my mind.”

These words have shaped his life. Though his entire family was decimated, his only mission in life is to keep the family name in fulfillment of his father’s wish.

To some young Genocide survivors, last words from their parents were assignments; for example to take care of their siblings just in case they survived. Others wish they had the opportunity to hear these last words from their loved ones.

While some survivors have derived inspiration from these tragic last moments, many have been weighed down by this tragic past. Unfortunately some of these traumatic experiences are irreversible, they last a life time. We are powerless, we cannot undo death.

It is 19 years now since the tragic events of 1994. While this may seem a fairly long period of time, the reality is that the scars are still fresh. The graves are still open to take in the remains of genocide victims excavated from pit latrines, on the hills and trenches. Some will never be recovered.

There is no doubt that the resolve by Rwandans to rebuild their country and lives is taking shape. As we commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi it is imperative that we consolidate the progress made in the over 19 years. The dark past should be an inspiration to build a more united Rwanda for all. Helping vulnerable survivors; the elderly, the sick, widows and orphans should be a duty of every Rwandan as we strive for self reliance.

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