Dear family and friends, today, Friday 11th December 2015, marks ten years after a life-changing accident that I was involved in in the Mathoi-Magbosie area of northern Sierra Leone. Please read through.
11th December 2005 was a Sunday. I was Freetown-bound, looking forward to receiving assignments I had given to my students at the University of Sierra Leone the week before. They were to hand them in on Monday, 12th December 2015. It was not to be, not because of personal reluctance. One of the tires of the vehicle I was travelling in exploded when the driver was driving at top speed, while descending a 45 degree hill. Consequently, the vehicle overturned three or four times and landed in a nearby bush. Many people died, including a prospective mother-in-law, who was heading for her daughter’s wedding at Foulah Town in Freetown that Sunday. Hers was a looked-forward-to-joy never realized. Life abbreviated. Probably, plausibly, likely, some of the food previously slated for conspicuous feasting for that wedding could have become funerary portions. How histories and lives change in a minute of mischance! There were other passengers whose lives were cut short also, but whose histories, hopes and cares I did not know. Yet, those people doubtless had an appetite for life, albeit with its gentle jolts and tempestuous tosses. I was one of the few survivors. You see, no matter how educated or opportune we are, we have to believe that it is the Almighty God that saves one in such valleys of shadows of death. And, I proclaim that it was He that did it for me as well.
Ten years on, I thank God that I am still alive. I also thank all of you, who supported me through it all.
Family and friends, it is easy to overplay victimhood of the circumstances I describe here. I would resist that temptation, although reality pulls heavily in that direction. But I learnt lessons from that accident of history. Take for example, the case of a 21 year youth I had befriended in the vehicle, and who was sitting next to me. He was beaming at the prospects of him being admitted to pursue Engineering at the University of Sierra Leone. He had gone to Bo Town, where he was returning from, just to pick up his statement of result to testify to the exceptional grades presented to the college’s Registry. That young man had just one item in the rather flat backpack he was carrying: his statement of result – his future abbreviated on an A4-sized paper, stamped and certified. As it turned out, he never made it to college. His spine was severed in the accident. His lot was hope abridged; normality suffocated. His mum, an experienced nurse, had never ridden on a motor bike until then but when she heard of her son’s gruesome road accident, she was ridden on a bike at high speed just to get to him. When she saw her son, I suppose that experience made her to suspect his dreadfully irreversible condition. The mother tried three times to give her son, the first in the family to make it to university, a painkiller injection. She failed at every one of those three attempts. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably. But when she tried to give me the same injection, she succeeded at the first go. Message: that blood is thicker than water? That the son’s overwhelming pain made the mother’s professional experience ineffectual? Could be. But those failing experienced hands also point out that when, at one fell swoop, one’s hopes are cruelly broken, one’s simple humanity loses its fight to keep falsely calm. The son and the mum, like me, like you, like all of us, are unapologetically all-too-human, infinitely fragile and prone to what fetid Fate can throw at us.
Friends and family, in our normal everyday living, we should not be proud – conceited. We are so vulnerably human. It takes a second of good fortune or misfortune, some not of one’s own making, to change one’s (hi)story. Coming to think of it, we should not be humble or public-spirited for fear of unfathomable misfortune that could hang over our unreadable futures. On the contrary, we should, in humility, enhance our lives and the lives of general humanity in the spheres of life we operate in. Positively etching one’s relevance in the lives of others is much more important than exerting one’s relevance on others overbearingly. The first lasts longer; the second self-extinguishes when its force expires. Don’t the poor and the rich, the educated and not-so-educated alike breathe oxygen?
Often, we see the flaw in the fall; yet the problem actually lies in not trying to rise after or from the fall. I suppose that I have striven to rise thereafter and therefrom.
Fellow human beings, this is not a sermon of mine ten years after my slip: it is a testament to the need for humanity to be extraordinarily ordinary, and for that same humanity to see the potential a fall carries to be a rise.
For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry Christmas, and to us all, a productive 2016.
© 2015 King, Nathaniel