Before I Die

life is not too short

I log into Facebook and read about a friend’s death.

The post on my newsfeed is hesitant and the questions that follow cry for answers. The news is inconclusive. Why tag a dead person in a post I wonder as I go over to his timeline. More questions greet me.

What am I hearing?

Someone tell me it’s not true o?

Is he really dead?

I just saw him two weeks ago. What happened?

Is this a joke?

On and on, the first reaction to death pours in. If the dead could talk, what would he say?

I spend the evening watching grief on social media. Words multiply quickly with high-speed connection. Small details here, small details there. An illness. A brief illness. A girlfriend. A babe. A teaching hospital. A brother. A mother. Two sisters. An engagement ring. Suddenly. Last night.

Hours later, denial gives way to acceptance on his timeline.

RIP

RIP

RIP

RIP

Although RIP carries as much eloquence as HBD, I do not conclude that grief on social media is impersonal, but rather reflective of the times. We wail in brief because something else on our newsfeed catches our eye. Our grief bears the mark of post-modern efficiency. It is not today that we shortened okay to kk.

His family posts a eulogy with a photo of him much later. Comments follow. I let my cursor play over the comment box. I type, you will be missed, and then delete. It is not good to lie to the dead. I join others for whom silence is fitting. We like the photo like signatures in a condolence register.

I don’t cry because I had not known him well enough for his death to unlock the door behind which my tears hide. We had drifted apart over the years as old friends do. He’d found me on Linkedin and we’d shared a couple of brief conversations about where we were in life and where we hoped to be. I do not remember what he said. I do not remember what I said. I must have told him about my blog; it is what I always do.

That is not to say his death means nothing to me. It does, but in a general way that makes me look inwards. Nothing like another’s death to bring your life into sharp focus.

Around midnight, I fall asleep. When I fully awake, I drink tea and scan blogs. Death is everywhere, disguised as poetry, woven into prose. I stumble on Robin’s post, Motivational and Elevating, as I try to air my mind. All these things: watching grief on social media, thinking about my life, and reading Robin’s blog, are connected and I think there’s a lesson for me. Robin leads me to Candy Chang.

 After losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled the sentence, “Before I die I want to _____.” Within a day of the wall’s completion, it was covered in colorful chalk dreams as neighbors stopped and reflected on their lives. Photographs of the wall spread online and since the original wall in 2011, more than four hundred Before I Die walls have been created in over 60 countries and over 25 languages by passionate people all over the world.  

before i die Candy Chang 1

before i die Candy Chang

before i die Candy Chang3

Thinking about mortality brings no fear. I feel confident about that place we must all go, but I don’t want to go just yet. Inspired by Candy Chang, I scribble and marvel that my long- and short-term goals colour my paper with broad strokes. Perhaps now I will live more intentionally. Perhaps now I will be who I am.  I don’t want to settle for something less because I tired of waiting for something more.

Some of the things I want to do before I die belong in my diary. Some I can share here.

Before I die, I want to . . .

  • Travel just because; feel warm sand massage my feet, see mountains I dare not climb, and drink tea from antique Arabian teapots
  • Light as many candles as I can. I lose nothing by lighting other candles for together we brighten the room
  • Let the people I love know that I love them. I do not want them to waste even a day questioning my love
  • Make more money so I can buy a Bentley and give to causes dear to me
  • Read the books and watch the films, that I should have already cancelled from my to-do list

before i die

What about you?

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Photo credits

  1. http://pixabay.com/en/sit-grandstand-theater-139664/
  2. http://beforeidie.cc/site/press/before-i-die-savannah-by-trevor-coe/
  3. http://candychang.com/before-i-die-the-book/
  4. http://beforeidie.cc/site/press/07-chang_before_i_die/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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62 thoughts on “Before I Die

  1. The truth of the matter is Death has a way of Gingering us into doing things we felt should have been done a long while ago, but then a week passes n the emotions are gone and we realize Life is actually Really Long. *Ok I think I’d save the rest for a future blog post*

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    1. True Ochuko, we can only think about our mortality for that long. If we focus too much on death, we could be left thinking, what’s the point, I’m going to die anyway. Maybe we can find a healthy balance?

      @blog post, I’d like to read it. Thanks for sharing another perspective. It enriches our conversation.

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  2. Hello Timi,

    It feels good reading your blog again.

    Death lingers everywhere. It reminds us that we are only here for a while.

    So, yes, it is what we define as a good life or life well-spent, that rises above death. That’s why the world still remembers/honors/makes reference to some people and others have been forgotten–like a puff of smoke.

    I’m sorry you lost a friend. May his family be comforted.

    Before I die … Mmm. My list is a big one 😉

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    1. “Death lingers everywhere. It reminds us that we are only here for a while.” I like the way you put it. Yet, some are not living for anything. I do not want to be forgotten-like a puff of smoke. I want my life to mean something and I guess you do too, for your list is a big one!

      Uzoma, thanks and thanks for sharing. I’ve missed having you here. It’s so good to see you again. 🙂

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  3. My uncle died on Tuesday. I love this post because, like you, I got to thinking about everything.
    Before I die, I’d love to travel, just because, like you
    And also make a lot of children smile and believe on themselves.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Death makes us reassess everything doesn’t it?
      I hope that you will travel and put smiles on the faces of children everywhere, smiles as lovely as yours!

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  4. I loved loved your post. Death, just the announcement makes it reality. Its part of the physical life as well as the mental. There are many who are going about life breathing normally, but truly dead. Dead to emotion, dead to sense and with no urgency.

    I pray that as I continue my journey that I live and not die. That I don’t allow others thoughts of me control my perception of me. I want to accomplish my dreams, get married, have a family and open my own women’s center, most of all I won’t allow my spirit to die.

    I really love your blog and your such an inspiration, I just started this blog and I’m so glad I found your blog. Thanks for letting us see you it forces us to see us..

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    1. We are fortunate that we are not among the ‘living dead’ and I’m so glad that you have dreams to live for. I think that as long as we’re reaching for something, we’ll have reason to get up in the morning.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m humbled that you see me, and even more humbled that it makes you see you. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I really admire the honesty in your writing; It is very refreshing. You weren’t very close to him and I respect how you remained silent instead of uttering meaningless words as some tend to do. I did read about the blogger who started the “Before I Die” movement. If for nothing else, if forces us to stop and think. I also love the honesty of the person who said because he loves something doesn’t mean he wants to die at it. True talk.
    To be honest, off the top of my head I can think of a few things I want to do before I die. But what I really really want to do before I die is to leave a legacy (financial, spiritual…) for my daughter to never have to put some of them (travel the world) on a “to do” list but on a “done, enjoyed, next” list

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    1. You know, I felt as if writing something I didn’t mean would be as insincere as professional mourners who wail on cue. I would like to be that consistent in other areas of my life.

      Candy Chang asks us to stop and think, but in a fun way. I’m playing with the idea of putting up a board in my home . . .

      To give your daughter the wherewithal to live her dreams. As a woman, I think I understand where you’re coming from and I hope you achieve this. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Sorry to speak in writerly terms rather than emotional, human ones, but this is your best piece yet. It has poetic grace without trying, which I suppose is a necessity of poetic grace.

    And don’t forget to put, “Hang out with my pal, Eric” on your list!

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    1. Lol, Eric, I’ll take writerly terms anywhere I find it. Thank you. This compliment coming at a time when my heart has been heavy, means a lot.
      Yes, hang out with my pal Eric for sure!

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  7. Sorry for your loss, Timi!

    Death is that sour reminder of our invincibility, a honest reminder of our frailty. In 2 Samuel 1:27, David penned a song for his friend Jonathan, saying: “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” Death strips us of our egos, our possessions, self esteem, our facade: our arsenal is emptied.

    Then I think, do the dead really turn around in the cloud and smile/cry just like we see in movies? Are they really sleeping till the day of judgement just like my Sunday School teacher said? Do they visit their old homes and dwell for days until the final rites of passage are completed?

    Since January, I haven’t been able to deal with grief too well. That’s probably why I didn’t comment on your somewhat heavy post last week (I listened to the author’s interview on Minnesota Public Radio and the way he recreated war scenes with words…)

    I also wonder if my presence or my utterances are as honest as my heavy silence. Like you, I register my condolence(s) in silence, wondering how he/she feels about all this attention, battling my conscience.

    Then again, I think families would love to think that their loved ones were loved by us when they were alive.

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    1. Maggielola, grief can be hard leaving in its wake questions unanswered. I am sorry for your loss. I’ve been dealing with loss at different levels for a long time too. Gratitude and helping others achieve their dreams have been my antidote. I hope you find a way to cope that works for you.

      You know, this wasn’t my post for this week. I had told myself, Timi, you’ve been too deep for a while, write something light, for crying aloud, think of your stats! And I started to, it had edge, humour, and was tongue-in-cheek. Then the news of death came and my heart could not engage, I had to write this post. But I didn’t want it to be heavy and I think I achieved the right balance. I’m glad it brought you back.

      I hope we can live in such a way that even though our passing may cause some sorrow, our legacy will restore hope and joy.

      Thank you so much for being brave and sharing. Hugs.

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  8. This is very good dear sister. Very insightful! If we all think constantly about death, what will happen after us, where we are going, our lives will be so much better for it cos we’ll more than 80% of the time make better decisions. Nothing bad about thinking about death because death is just a door that opens up and lead you to the destination you have all your lifetime prepared for. Very important to think about your final destination.

    >

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    1. For those of us still alive, we have many opportunities to think of death because death is everywhere- wars, natural disasters, accidents, sickness, etc. At the same time, this deluge can also cause us to lose sensitivity. I hope we are able to find a healthy balance where death doesn’t immobilize us (because we think, what’s the point?), but compels us to do all you mentioned above.

      Thank you Julien for being here and for sharing.

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  9. Liking the picture isn’t because of the quality of that pic but our own way of sharing in the grief. Rather than just type RIP, please leave a one-liner of an attribute or what you know or miss about the person, thus making your message more personal.
    Before I die: I want to leave my prints on the sands of time.

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    1. @Liking the picture, I think so too. But following the conventions of the Twitter Generation- 140 characters or less- does RIP mean I care less than the person who wrote rest in peace?
      A one-liner attribute seems like the thing to do, but I guess some just don’t know what to say. In my case, I couldn’t say anything that didn’t sound like fraud to me.

      Prints on the sands of time, yes, I hope you make big ones! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  10. Bunmi raced me to the ‘I want to live’ answer. I remembered Kirk Franklin’s song of the same title when I saw this in my WordPress reader and the song is still playing in my head as I type these words.

    I’m still not convenient with grief on social media. I don’t understand what it means to like a picture that announces the dead. Do we like the quality of the picture, the person that is now dead, or are we signing a condolence register like you said? I don’t know. Usually I scroll by in silence, because I’m still awkward whenever I encounter grief and loss – who shouldn’t be?

    So before I die I want to live, love and encounter joy in its truest form. Then I want to stare death in it’s face and absorb its blows with boisterous laughter at its defeat.

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    1. If language is a system of communication used by a particular country or community, and Facebook is the third largest ‘country’ in the world, then maybe we’ll have to accommodate or adjust to its language or be left behind. What do you think?

      Language is always evolving and some of us, maybe both of us, would like to preserve some of the status quo. In writing this post, I had some lively debates about best practices on social media, and while businesses have some, when it comes to individuals the conventions are looser, we concluded. A ‘like’ may well mean, I identify, I acknowledge, and I feel your pain.

      In any case, we’re in the same camp (for now 🙂 ) as I’m a bit ‘shy’ about ‘liking’ the photo of the deceased; it feels awkward.

      Live, love, joy in it’s truest form, reading your words makes me feel I can fly, and the icing on the cake, no fear in the face of death. Ife, thank you so much for sharing.

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      1. The idea of adjusting to a world where “HBD LLNP GGMUB” becomes the ultimate birthday greeting is one I’m not eager to embrace, but I do agree, adjusting is what we might have to do, or risk losing the ability to communicate to one of the world’s largest communities.

        I fear that one day, folks would look at what we consider the proper means of communicating grief, joy, love etc and shake their heads the way I shake my head at Shakespeare.

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        1. Lol at your Shakespeare analogy. Brings to mind this: the ancient Egyptians gave us hieroglyphics, then we progressed to alphabets and numerals. Now we have alphabets, numerals, and emoticons! Before I die, I wonder what language would have devolved to? 😀
          😮 😯 8) :idea :p :I 🙂 😉

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    1. Charles I’m sorry about your loss. The connection you shared with your friends was closer than the one I shared with my friend. When death visits someone close, you take stock, you appreciate people more. That’s what I got from reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Wow Timi, this is deeply nice! I am sorry for your loss. I have learnt sometimes ago to always do a reflection on what my death would mean to my generation and more importantly God’s global plan of which He has made me a key player thru my Kingdom Purpose. I am convinced that death is not an option until I finish my assignment and that my Purpose is my defence against untimely death but I know that “untimely” is never a function of age after all Jesus died at 33. The challenge us commit myself to living my best life NOW- maximizing my potentials and living fully to die empty!
    Before I die, I dream to have been able to deliver as many from the web of purposelessness and to have empowered them to fit into their unique place by maximising their potentials and unleashing the beauty of God in them… Thanks Timi for giving us Lively Twist!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. You challenge me with your worldview and your focus. I read your comments, read your posts, and think: Timi, you’ve got to get your act together!

      One regret voiced by older people is the lack of guidance to steer through life when they were younger. I hope you ignite the flame in the many hearts searching for meaning. Thanks for sharing.

      Ah, Livelytwist, one of the better things I’ve done with my gifts. Graag gedaan 🙂

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  12. Hmmm, not sure I have a bucket list; not because I think I’m immortal (that would be silly, wouldn’t it) and also not because I’m unaware of death. I’ve wondered if it’s merely a sign of getting older or that bad news spreads even more quickly these days, but there does seem to be more death around than, say, 10 years ago. I’d probably just like to die happy, fulfilled, and having made a difference. I hope it’s later rather than sooner but life can be a b———————.

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    1. Rotimi, to what do I owe this ‘rare’ pleasure? I’d concluded that Twitter had stolen your heart for good. Your ‘bucket list’ is full – happiness, fulfillment, making a difference – sounds like I’m right up in your alley; only the details may differ. Amen to later rather than sooner. Life, hmmm . . . I’m grateful for second chances. Thanks for sharing.

      And btw, I remember, “You’ve got engine fatigue. Engine fatigue?” 🙂

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  13. Before I die I want to……live.

    That may sound redundant but I have no misgivings it’s larger than life – this comment box can’t contain the details.

    Another rousing one there, Timi.

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  14. Sadly, like you, this weekend I was also mourning the death of a friend. He was a close friend and we’d stayed in touch over the years so his death hit me particularly hard. He loved motorcycles and he died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the whole, “He died doing what he loved,” bit I love motorcycles, but I don’t think I want to die riding one. As far as the, “before I die” (more commonly known as “the bucket list”) thing goes, like you, my list is primarily for my eyes only, but here’s one I’m willing to share:

    Before I die, I’d love to run a marathon or do a half iron-man.

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    1. Joseph, I’m sorry to hear about your loss. It is early days, but I hope a time comes when the memories of your friendship gladdens your heart and not dampens it.

      @died doing what he loved, hmmm . . . but injuries connote pain not joy. Perhaps what people mean is that he was fulfilled and living his dream, before he died.

      @marathon or half iron-man, I “see” you’ve been practising. Surely your day is around the corner? 🙂

      Thank you for being here and for sharing.

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  15. Howdy Timi, I haven’t stopped by in a long while but as always it s a pleasure. On the subject of death, I was saying to a friend just yesterday that death isn’t to be feared as we will all at some point experience it. For the living, death is to be prepared for. Not in the after but in the now!

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    1. “For the living, death is to be prepared for.” Spicy, the truth of your words really hits home. Where am I going, what can I carry with me, and what should I leave behind? When someone your age dies, you realize it’s not too early to start thinking about these things.

      I’m glad you stopped by, I like it when you do 🙂

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  16. Hi Timi! Been awhile 🙂
    Death does that, doesn’t it? Puts things in perspective and brings to fore life’s fleeting nature.
    Oh! This post resonated…the influence of social media on even our response to grief… Your honesty, the silence, the numbness, the emotions even the death of someone not close evokes, strong enough to incite a post this poignant. I could relate over and again.

    P.s; Before my time on earth is up, I would love to add value, inspire the best quality of life there is and reflect God in every way possible. Its an intentional life I desire.

    May the soul of the departed get a much-deserved rest….eternally too. Amen.
    And may we lead lives that fully appropriates God’s dominion over death in Christ.

    Thank you for expressing these thoughts and feelings so succinctly.

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    1. Lizzie I’ve missed our exchanges, but you’re here now, so good. Grief on social media, yes things are changing. For example, why pay N250K for an obituary in the paper, when you can post it for free on Facebook? But that’s a “debate” for another day, or a post for you to write 🙂

      I’m most fulfilled when I do the things you mentioned, giving and adding value and reflecting my convictions. Living intentionally, yes, yes, yes!

      You’re welcome Lizzie and thank you for sharing.

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  17. This post is excellent, Timi! I am so excited that you included photos. I am also saddened that you lost someone. I am glad that I was able to console you or give you words of comfort, by sharing this post in a timely way. Thanks, for including my post in yours. This means a lot to me, Timi! Smiles and hugs, Robin

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    1. Robin thanks. Your post motivated me to look at my life. I’m determined to trim off excess fat and let my life count. I love the photos too, they speak a thousand words. Keep spreading hope and sunshine!

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      1. You have me feeling so good, when you feel that I spread “hope and sunshine,” Timi. I feel that you have candor and frankness that are such admirable traits. I liked how some of your posts really push us to think, react and care about situations. Take care!

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  18. Trust death to always remind us about the importance of living. Before i die, i want to very happy and achieve all my short term goals; after all, death can happen in the next minute.

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  19. Deep!

    I’m reminded of some words from a song I listened to that has stayed with me

    Before I die… “…I gotta do something that’s innovative
    Creative just to create a legacy before death do us part” for His Glory.

    So Help Me God.

    Like

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