Mrs. Rita Ukwuaba, before her demise, was an active member of our chaplaincy, (St. Peter’s UNN) whose spirit of service and honesty will ever remain alive and kicking in our memory. She attended Church on a Sunday morning and on Monday morning was the news of a ghastly motor accident while she was going to Enugu and on Tuesday evening, we got the news that she couldn’t make it. O what a painful news for the chaplaincy? How could God have willed such a sad abrupt end for his faithful daughter, whose worship he delights and whose service draws others close to him (God)? But then could God have directly willed that we loose her in such manner? Certainly not, for He assured us that he is abounding in love. The reports preceding her death lamented the carelessness and impatience of the driver who was stupidly speedy in order to make enough money before the end of the day. Even at that, we believe that nothing is impossible for God, by implication, he would have arrested the situation miraculously by any means. But he permitted it. Here comes the menace of the free will offered to us by God, which he wouldn’t want to control arbitrarily, hence we turn into a robbot. A free will that could be abused to the detriment of others, even to the point of death. Sometimes, man laments and wished that God never offered us this gratuitous gift, but in the absence of free choice and decision for good or evil, where comes the reward of after life.
The unfortunate circumstances surrounding her death notwithstanding, could we say that it was an untimely death? Such a conclusion would presuppose that we knew her mission to the world and when such mission could end. As a student, I would say that the end of the class is untimely if it ends at 11am instead of 1pm. A mother would be worried if the child who is supposed to come back from market by 12noon, is no where to be found, since she knows the mission of her child in the market. Therefore, only God can say that a death is untimely. And since there is nothing like time before God, no death is untimely. He is eternal.
Nevertheless, we cannot doubt that he is God of the living and the dead. Therefore, even if human free will can sometimes limit our earthy existence and aspirations, only God has power over a life beyond here. And so the scriptures tell us to fear only he who can destroy both the both the body and the soul. It is consequent upon this single fear inspired by our Faith in the resurrection of the dead that we will never rest on our laurels in praying fervently for God to grant her the eternal freedom of God’s daughters.
Meanwhile, both faith and science agree that death is the decomposition of composite being/separation of live principles. For instance, the component parts that make up our class as final year theologians of Bigard Memorial seminary Enugu died on June 30, 2019, and will never exist again but the individual component that make up the class is still existing but no longer as a class until we all die. And just as certain activities of our class ceased to exist, like reading, lecturing, writing asking questions (as in the class) so also certain activities of human composition already decomposed ceases to exist like movement, thinking, breathing etc. But one thing interestingly significant about human life, is that there’s a special component that will never die, and that is the soul. It speaks volume to the creation of man in God’s image and likeness.
It is against this backdrop that the Church teaches us that not withstanding our knowledge of death as a consequence of Original Sin –( Wis. 1:3, Rom. 5:12, CCC 400, 403,413, 1008, 1018), a contradiction of good news(CCC 164), a Limitation of life that ends man’s aspirations (CCC1021) as well as the last enemy of man (CCC 1008) that will break the Carmel’s back. On the other side of the spectrum, death is the only ordinary means of encountering God, of participating in the life of Christ (CCC 1006), an entrance into eternal life (CCC 1020), and finally a sacramental and theological Act of handing over our life to God. No wonder the death of saints are celebrated as their birthdays. We therefore pray that Tuesday 29th day of October may be the birthday of our beloved sister in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!
Finally, this is an opportunity for us to learn the necessity of being in the state of grace as often as possible. We are in an imperfect world, where human ignorance, carelessness and heartlessness can be very dangerous and detrimental to the life of others. And on our own part, let us make effort to be careful and discipline towards protecting our lives and the lives of others. May God’s grace never lack in us through Christ our Lord Amen.

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