The fragility of life

Near death experiences make us reflect on mortality

In the delicate fabric of existence, life is like a thin thread and a fragile dance between breaths. With constant reminders that our presence here is transient, the next heartbeat is never promised. Our lives quickly unfold, whether it takes four weeks or a century, reminding us to grab onto the moments before they turn into memories in the blink of an eye.

Death is like a quiet companion with us on our journey through life, waiting to provide support at any time on the journey it decides one needs eternal rest. Death is something we all share, the one thing that is certain in our uncertain trip through time.

Amid the ephemeral nature of our existence, there lies an unparalleled beauty in the mundane. It’s in the sunrise that graces each morning and the shared laughter that echoes through the ordinary moments of our daily lives. It’s in the smell of our loved ones or the smell of the first rain in the hot summer.

When I think of death, it dawns on me that the essence of birth is not just death, but dying empty, having exhausted my gifts, talents, skills and knowledge. I have an imagination of how I want to die, not in the cold, not with a bra on, not on a vacation and not on a road trip. Maybe I’ll die with a pair of socks on because I get cold from my feet. I think knowing when and how one will die is a privilege in itself, a six-month notice can ensure the best six months of one’s life.

My closest near-death experience was on a plane trip from Maiduguri, northern Nigeria, to Lagos, Western Nigeria.

I had gone on a work trip on my birthday week. I celebrated my birthday photographing an internally displaced persons’ camp due to the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. It was March 12, and my bags were packed to head back to Lagos. I boarded the plane and indulged in my custom of falling asleep before the plane takes off to distract my body from feeling the discomfort from turbulence, only waking up once I feel the tires of the plane touch the airport tarmac.

On this day, all that woke me up was an unusual shake of the plane, a sudden 8,000 feet rough elevation of the plane from, and screams of “Jesus,” “Allah,” last prayers and phone dials. I opened my eyes, and saw a lot of panic, except for the two men to my left watching pornography.

The pilot then announced that we were low on fuel and we would be heading to the nearest airport to have a layover. The unpredictability of this moment served as a powerful reminder of life’s fragility and the importance of living it well, and that a life well lived is subjective.