HomeOpinion & AnalysisA review of Obama’s poem on love and death

A review of Obama’s poem on love and death


WHEN I think about the depth of the grave and the kilos of sand that are going to be thrown at us, there is no need to harm my brother;

Comfort Mafoshola

When I think of the darkness that pervades the tomb after it has closed, there is no need to hurt my sister;

When I think of the heat driven back by the ground and the amount of water that will drown me during the rains in this grave, I cannot make my neighbour suffer;

When I think that I will be alone abandoned by all, I prefer to enjoy communion when I am alive;

When I think my relationships are cut off by my past, I want to perfect my future.

If I could be reborn and start all over again, I would no longer make mistakes in my actions.

After a long meditation, I understood that all is vanity on earth.

May God help us to cultivate humility and love of neighbour, because vanity only gives by vanity, everything will be vanity.

Be happy and make someone happy. ”

 — Barack Obama (former US President)

A quick internet search will reveal that the poem under review is attributed to the former US President Obama.

Whatever the case, my review is primarily focused with the substance of the poem as opposed to the identity of the author. The poem is as thought provoking as it is motivational. What should be our motivation for showing love? What is the relationship of showing love with the condition of the dead?

As a motivational speaker, I was intrigued by the reasons portrayed in the poem and felt compelled to share this review. The question of what happens to us when we die merits our attention.

The grave and the elements

It is interesting that the poem talks about the heat and the water that will penetrate the grave. Is there a suggestion that the dead person will actually experience the pain?

We read about the depth of the grave and how much sand will be thrown at us. Are the dead conscious of anything at all?

The condition of the dead

What really happens to us when we die?  In the final paragraph of the poem, the existence of God is acknowledged and so is the vanity of life.

It will only be wise therefore to seek an answer from God’s Word the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 9: 5 says;  “For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.” (New King James Version).

The answer is clear. The dead will not experience pain in the grave or anywhere else. The soul dies. (Ez 18:4). The natural elements will only have the effect of decomposing the dead. The dead may be exposed to fire but they will not feel the heat.

They may be exposed to freezing temperatures but they will not feel cold. The dead are not conscious of anything.

During the period of the The Reformation, the Council of Constance ordered that the bones of John Whycliffe be dug up and burnt even though he had been dead and buried for over 30 years.

Could they have lacked the understanding of the condition of the dead? It is important for us to have the correct understanding as it will have a bearing on our actions.

Ecclesiastes 9: 10 concludes by saying; “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (New King James Version)

The time to express love and care to one another is when we are still alive. There is no work or wisdom after we die. The dead do not have the capacity either to see or acknowledge any good things we might do.

The best motivation for love

The best motivation therefore, for us to show love to another is that we were made in God’s image and that God is Love (1 John 4:8). We are motivated by the fact that God first loved us and he commands us to love our neighbour. Our motivation to love one another will certainly not be out of fear of the heat or the water that will penetrate the grave.

The vanity of life

Admittedly, the poem does well to emphasise the vanity of life. If this was the sole objective of the poem, then it was accomplished.  We work hard in life ultimately death will overtake us. Death is a price for sin. The realisation of the vanity of life should be a motivation for us to aspire for something better.

A resurrection hope

A resurrection hope exists for the dead (John 5:28, 29). If the dead were experiencing another life elsewhere, this future promise would not make sense. The dead will come out of the grave at a future appointed time in the same manner that Lazarus and Jesus Christ did.

We can all be motivated to love one another with the sure knowledge that God will remember us for our deeds in the future and grant us a resurrection to a new life under perfect conditions (Rev 22:3, 4). When I remember this, I won’t harm my brother. I will not hurt my sister. I will not let my neighbour suffer.

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