She was a neighbour. A very beautiful woman, for that matter. Her kids were abroad and visited from time to time. She was always very elegantly dressed and her beauty made her look more radiant. But on this very day, her beauty, her elegance, her honour as a woman and mother were not relevant. What was relevant was saving her life.
My dad got called over to her flat. The message was ‘she was non-responsive'. My dad asked me to come along as we moved in haste into her flat and her bedroom. When we got in, she was on the bed, non-responsive with barely any clothes on. It appeared as though she had slipped into a coma. My dad and I carried her into his car. We used a wrapper to cover her as best as we could. We raced to the teaching hospital. My dad drove while I stayed with her in the back of the car, holding her head. I looked into her eyes. The same beautiful eyes that radiated beauty, elegance, class, and joy and it just looked back at me expressionless. At the teaching hospital, we handed her over to the emergency ward and later called her family. She didn’t make it.
That experience taught me a lot. It taught me about the sanctity of life. It taught me about how we all value life and would do anything to protect and preserve it. It taught me about how everything pales in insignificance once there is a threat to life and existence. When it came to saving her life, the fact that she was naked was not relevant. The preservation of her life was a far bigger priority than the preservation of her dignity as a woman.
I have come to accept that inside of every man and woman is the value we place on life. It is the reason that strangers will run towards an accident to rescue injured persons trapped in a vehicle even when they are rescuing strangers. It is the reason strangers will run into your house to help quench a fire that is raging even at risk to their own lives. I recalled the day my generator caught fire. In the confusion, I forgot I had a fire extinguisher. It took a stranger to jump my barbwire fence to help put out the fire.
We all value life. But it seems we value life only at the point of it being taken. When it is apparent that life will be lost, we have the capacity of forsaking all other values and prioritizing the preservation of life. Rescuers will not hesitate to break a leg trapped in a burning car if that was what it took to save the life of the person. In our mind, life is worth much more than a leg. Doctors will not hesitate to perform a double vasectomy if that was all it took to save that woman from cancer of the breast. In their estimation, life is worth much more than two breasts on a woman’s body.
Here lies the irony. If we value life that much, why is it that we treat it with such insignificance? Just take a look around and see the way we live. We are very happy to do all within our capacity to rescue people trapped in a car accident but are less concerned about the death hole (pothole) that caused the accident. We are very happy to sell our assets to cure illnesses and diseases, but are not prepared to eat healthily and avoid a lifestyle that will aid the sickness. I had an uncle that died from lung cancer. His favourite cigarette was Marlboro. You could never get him to stop smoking it. Even as young as I was growing up, I knew it would kill him. But it was something we accepted silently. When he became ill, we went through the motions of caring for him like any caring family will do. But he didn’t make it. We valued life. He valued it too. But we just didn’t value it enough to be proactive about saving it.
How about we see it differently? How about we begin to determine the worth of a life not by when it is at the point of being lost but at the potential risk of being lost. You see, they sound the same but they are very different. The former leaves you with no choice and no time. The latter gives you the opportunity to do all that is within your power today to preserve that life for the future.
This message is for everybody. If government officials valued the life of their citizens, they will do all within their power to fix the roads, ensure health care, and pay salaries/pensions on time. They would not steal today what will be needed to preserve life tomorrow. If you, as a father or mother that values the lives of your family, you will make sure that you watch what they eat and drink. If you value life as a driver, you will drive within the speed limit. You will not drive under the influence. If you value life, you will value your job. You will value excellence. You will do your job today as if it was the last day of your life or your last opportunity to make an impression.
If everybody makes up their mind today to give their best to life as if it will be lost at the very next moment, I bet you we will extract the best from what this life can give. Productivity will be high. Life expectancy will increase. Sexual and domestic violence will reduce. Accidents will reduce and the quality of life of each Nigeria will increase. We’ve got it in us. It is not beyond us. It is not too far to contemplate. All we need is a change of perspective.