The Last Post

When I was much younger than I am now, I enrolled into the Boys’ Brigade, a paramilitary church organization for boys and men. It was the custom with our family. Grandpa and my elder brother were members; all the older boys who stayed with us were  members. Only dad was not a member. So it was simply traditional for me to join as soon as I came of age. So the year I turned four, I joined the Anchor Boys’ rank of the 17th Benue Company and later would be promoted to the rank of an NCO. I would stay on that rank until I grew older and attended several camps and then I’d be promoted and become an officer. However, I did not stay that long.  My activities with the Boys’ Brigade ended when I was eleven and had to leave for my secondary education.

During my seven years with the Boys’ Brigade, we engaged in lots of paramilitary activities. We were taught discipline. We attended camps, went for rallies and on few occasions had to go for funeral services and ceremonies of our members. It was on one of such funerals that something unique happened to me. We had lost a member, a young boy of my age. A very painful one! We had gone camping in Makurdi very close to the Benue River and the first instruction we had received was to stay away from the river. It was dangerous. A lot of people had died in there.  But how could we? Young, exuberant, high-spirited  and highly adventurous boys not play with the river water? Was it not River Benue afterall? Our river? We had heard so much about it and we would be foolish not to have a feel of it. So we decided we’d wait till a day to the close of camp and pay the river a visit. And a visit did we pay.  We went seven but returned six. One of us (I can’t recall his name, he was from a different battalion) had drowned. The fire alarm sounded but little could be done to save him. He had drowned in the vast waters. His turgid body would be recovered two days later close to the north bank of the river. I’ll save you the reader all the details.

Two weeks later we were gathered in a small village, Mkar in Gboko, Benue State for his funeral. The wake keep was dreadful. I guess it must have been normal for others but dreadful for me. I had dreaded it right from when the burial was fixed. At night, I was sorely afraid of everything. The unexpected start of the brigade drums, the piercing silence afterwards, the thick wall of darkness. I saw his face when my eyes closed and when I opened them, he stood somewhere in the dark corner, sad, smiling. At times, he was the one sitting next to me and when I felt the urge to urinate, I dared not stand for he’d be waiting for me in the darkness. I knew though that all of these were simply my imaginations yet I was so stricken by fear and I wouldn’t take chances. Did I want him to pull me away and drown me in the sea of darkness that enveloped us? I’d rather pee in my pants.

A little while before dawn we were awoken to get set. Those who could have their bath did while some of us, especially the junior boys who needed no bathing simply dressed up in our uniforms. The ceremony had begun and all the procession had taken place peacefully.  There was so much going on around and in my head that I really paid attention to nothing. Then finally, the Commanding Officer gave the command for the bugler to blow the tune, the last post. I had heard it a couple of times. That solemn tune that reminded people to cry, for they cried more after it had ended than ever before. However, this last post began with a shrill in my body. I shook. I had been expecting it, but I shook all the same. It sounded more solemn and ominous than all the others I’ve ever heard. It was the sound of sorrow. A sorrow that I was very much involved in; a sorrow I’d very much played a part in, my sorrow.  It was here, that the real essence of the last post came to me. So later when it would be played again at my grandfather’s funeral, I’d read more meaning to it than anyone else. Grandpa’s funeral would be the last brigade funeral I attended up till now, and there again, the last post sounded.

Whenever they played the last post, everyone stood still. It was the last honour given to the dead. When the last post had sounded, the coffin would be lowered six feet beneath the earth. That would be the end. So the last post served as a reminder that truly this person was gone, never to be seen among the living again. If you had nursed any hopes before that something miraculous would happen, the last post seemed to dash all of such hopes. The last post brought reality upon many.  So immediately after the last post, wails and screams poured in from different parts of the compound where the grave was. But the last post had come to mean much more than tears to me. It had become a question.

Is the last post really the end of it all? It’s been eleven years since when I last renewed my membership with the boys’ brigade. But I hope to, and will certainly renew it before I die. Then would the last post be sounded at my funeral. Would it be the end? Certainly not! Fifteen years ago the last post seemed to me a reminder of the brevity of life and the certainty of death if Jesus tarried. But now, as I look through the years, I’ve come to see that death is only a beginning, an opening to a new world just like birth. If you are reading this and you do not believe in life after death, please hold on. Don’t stop yet. I’m still coming to that. So for me, when my last post has been blown, what next? That became a question that troubled my soul for several years. And I’m glad now that as I write, I’ve found answers, several answers to that question.  When and if my last post sounds, I’d be in paradise watching the events on earth. There I’d await the end of the age when My Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and I, dead in Christ and many others like me, will rise first. After that, those who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with us in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. That’s for me because I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Hold on if you don’t believe in any of these things. At least you believe in the certainty of death. To deny death would be to deny your very existence, to deny science. You remember MR NIGER D? The D is constant. Whether it be the last post or some kind of solemn hymn or speech, there’d be a last something in your honour even if you’ve lived the most worthless of lives. Where would you be when that last something is going on in your honour? If you’ve ever believed that you are made up of more than your body (flesh and bones and blood), then where would the rest of you be when your body is lowered six feet beneath? Do you ever actively remember death? The reason why most people live as they do is because they hardly ever actively remember that they’ll die. Think again and again.

If you believe in resurrection and life after death then think of eternity. Think of the seven year marriage ceremony with the lamb. Think of the millennial reign with Christ and endeavor to be in paradise when your last post sounds.

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