Staring into death’s eyes

Taral Patel, News Editor

His inhumanely thin, tree-branch legs spoke of the countless paths he had traveled. The dark patches of weathered skin ran down from the stubble on his face to the tattoo of a Nigerian flag. His knobby, worn hands had deeply etched scars from a lifetime of handling heavy loads—physical and emotional.

But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old and worn as the desolate and dry Nigerian landscape he so fondly described. His name was Victor.

A few months ago, my mother and I were driving home. We took an alternate route, through our old neighborhood and stopped at our old house on a whim. We saw no recognizable features, though: the massive oak tree had been cut down, and the garage was full of barking dogs.

We visited our old friend, Victor, to find some answers. My knocks at his door went unanswered for a few minutes, but eventually a woman peered out from behind the wooden door. As we trudged upstairs in the dim light, the woman disappeared, and we entered a small room.

What followed will stick with me forever.

There was a strange, extremely skinny man hunched over on his bed. As we drew closer, I saw the shadow of the proud, strong man I once called my friend.

He could barely talk, but he hugged us and attempted to crack old jokes. He was an outgoing and compassionate man who lived life fearlessly. He recollected the time when we found a snake and rushed to his house to thrust on him the responsibility of handling the issue.

“What happened to you, Victor?”

He glanced downwards briefly.

“I have pancreatic cancer, and so does my wife,” he said. “I have three little ones. I love my children, but I know I do not have much time left on this planet.”

He told us he was moving back to Nigeria to enjoy his remaining time in his home country with the family he missed, and to have his family there support his three children. I looked into Death’s eyes that night and saw things I did not expect.; among them, I saw life. There was a yearning for the freedom of Nigeria’s gritty landscape. There was love for his small children. There was an awe- inspiring equilibrium of joy and acceptance.

I look back into Victor’s eyes and see both sides of death: inevitability and life. We must come to terms with death, accept it as inevitable and act accordingly. I will pass into the void someday, but it is all about how we live before we are taken. All of this, I saw in Victor’s eyes.