Hip-hop/Spirituality/Freethinking. Speaking for all underdogs!
0n Death & Dying: Swing Low Sweet Jesus!
By Khalil Amani
As many of you already know, Khalil Amani was stricken with Coronavirus aka Covid-19 for 18 days in the month of January 2021. With the world-wide Covid-19 death toll at 2.3 million and counting and 465,000 of those deaths being Americans, you can imagine, Khalil, in the midnight hour, pondering his fate and mortality. "Is this the end of the road God? Will Covid-19 kill me God?"
Indeed! I had these thoughts, as I lay in bed alone, in my darkened Master bedroom in the wee hours of the night. I was mentally preparing myself for death, while asking the "Universe" for a reprieve from taking a dirt-nap dying. Like Jesus, who knew that he must die, but asked God for an extension on his life... and then consigned himself to the fact that prophecy must be fulfilled, I too, wrestled with my fate. This Covid-19 had me feeling like I was about to be forced to give up the ghost (die). I thought to myself, "Who am I that I should escape death when millions have already died of Covid-19?" But then, in a moment of peaceful clarity, I stood fast against this disease with the passion of Dylan Thomas when he penned, "I will not go gentle into that good night! Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!" When Doris Day sang, "Que Sera' Sera'" (whatever will be will be)... this was my attitude. I'm either going to beat Covid-19 or it's going to beat me!
To myself I thought, I have too much shit to still do in life and an awesome family that loves me and needs me! And so, with the prayers and well-wishes of hundreds of family, friends and my Social Media family.. and my will to fight this deadly disease, the Universe decided that it was not yet my time to meet my Maker.
Grim Reaper check. We’re all gonna die one day. One hundred years from this moment, everybody you know will be dead! From the baby born today right on down to you (so much for these young hip-hop heads clowning on us old-heads!). Longevity is what most of us seek; a life filled with children, grandchildren and good health, but whether you be the most religious person in the world—an every-Sunday-go-to-meetin’-church-goin'-Christian... or even a preacher, pastor or bishop, who claims to have a mainline to Jesus, staying in the here & now is the goal. Nobody (accept people who commit suicide) wants to check out early or before the time they think they are allotted on this earth.
Even though Jesus told us, “In my father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (St. John 14:2)—we are still in no rush to challenge the veracity (truthfulness) of Jesus's otherworldly materialism and claim our mansion. We’d rather live in a dilapidated Housing Project in the Bronx River, New York or the Pork & Beans Projects in Miami or South Central LA's Nickerson Gardens... eating Top Ramen noodles than be enthused about that mansion in the sky! (And why do spirits need mansions? Are not we immaterial in the afterlife? And if you’re a Muslim man, you’re really gonna fuck 72 virgins in Paradise with a spiritual phallus? Seems to me that even after death, folk want materialism, but that’s another essay!)
It doesn’t matter the circumstance! Whether it be our 90 year old grandmother whose lived a long beautiful life and can no longer hear, see or use the bathroom on her own, we will still pray for her to live in that condition! Or, if we’re young and/or middle-aged like Khalil Amani and suddenly come down with a killer disease like Covid-19, we will fight against death or, as Dylan Thomas so poetically penned the struggle to kick death's ass, “Do not go gentle into that good night! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” (Translation? I ain’t dying easy! I’ll fight this muthafuckin’ Grim Reaper till my dying breath!)
Nobody in their right mind wants to die—not even Jesus! Frfr! (For real, for real!) In all of the humanness that he could muster up, Jesus begged God to figure out a different way to bring about salvation to humanity, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39) Translation? “O Father! Is there anyway possible that I don’t have to die on this cross for these people? I wanna live, but if I gotta die for these folk, it-is-what-it-is—it’s whatever you want daddy!”
The preacher doesn’t preach a humanistic Jesus who hurts and was afraid and was fearful of his impending death on the cross. Jesus’s actions on that fateful day are proof-positive that living in this physical realm is what people were put on this earth to do—to live and have dominion over the earth, as the early Old Testament scribes had written. We are not here to worry about a “Heaven,” “Hereafter,” “Glory” or “Paradise.” We are here on this earth to ride this muthafucka until the wheels fall off, thus, it is written, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be born and a time die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). Never does the Bible instruct us to be star-gazers and try to figure out what’s on the other side of this physical plane. Never does God or the Bible teach us to forsake worldly possessions and shun materialism and not strive to live our best lives! The Bible only admonishes us to not allow our worldly possessions to consume us and thus, it is written, "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil" (I Timothy 6:10). Not money, in and of itself, but the LOVE of money, which is the worshiping of materialism is what's evil. There are other scriptures that speak highly of money as in, "Money is a defense" (Ecclesiastes 7:12).
It is our religiosity (Judaism/Israelite, Christianity & Islam) that has some of us shunning the physical; that is, as long as we’re healthy, but once we start fearing our mortality we start respecting life. I’ve never met a (religious) person who, when faced with death, smiled and said, “Swing low sweet Jesus! I’m comin’ to join ya!”
I done loss hella family—mama, daddy, brother, nephew, niece, grandparents, cousins, sister-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, etc.—and I’m sure many of you know about losing loved ones too. Some of us have even lost children; a mind-fuck so egregious to the natural order of things; that is that children should bury their parents and not the other way around.
Our nature is to stay in the physical. It doesn’t matter what religion you believe in. Staying alive is our basest instinct. But really, not wanting to die goes against our religiosity. We have been told of all this great stuff in the afterlife, but none of it has been confirmed, thus we only have faith & belief to guide us. Yet, if we truly believed in the religious message of salvation, we should be salivating to die! We should be standing over our grandmother’s hospital bed chanting in WWE fashion, “Die! Die! Die! Die!”—because we know salvation is nigh, but, instead, we ask God to grant us a few more days with our loved one. Likewise, when we are stricken with some doomsday news that a cancerous virus is attacking our body and we are given mere months to live—our natural “Fight or Flight” instincts are to fight the disease. We are not mentally ready to succumb to a disease, no matter what the doctor has said! We ain’t trying to “own it,” “claim it” or believe that within months we might be dead.
In 1969 a Swiss psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross helped us make sense of death & dying in her book, “On Death & Dying” by designating five (5) distinct stages of the dying process, which are #1. Denial (not de Nile!), #2. Anger, #3. Bargining, #4. Depression, and #5. Acceptance.
Denial—the first stage of dying where a person might say such things as, “Oh hell no!” “Not me!” “I don’t care what the doctor said!” “I ain’t claimin’ that!” This is a normal reaction—a healthy reaction. Like really, who wants to believe that in just a few short months they’ll be meeting their Maker? That’s some powerful & scary stuff to face & accept!
At-the-end-of-the-day, as stated, we’re all gonna die. The question will be how you die—what spirit will be with you? The spirit of willingness & readiness to accept what the Universe (or God, if you will) has decreed or denial of things to come. As for me, I will embrace Dylan Thomas's words--"Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!"--while, at the same time, accept the Universe’s calling. Peace & blessings to those struggling.
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death!" (I Corinthians 15:26)
Author, poet, essayist, blogger, troll, satirist, cultural critic, freethinker, father, grandfather, husband & C.O.O.N (Consciously Optimistic, Overtly, Nihilistic), Khalil Amani is "Gay hip-hop's Straight Advocate." A Miami native who writes for Allhiphop.com, DJ Kay Slay’s Straight Stuntin Magazine. He’s been featured in L.A. Times, Miami New Times, Miami Herald, Thump/Vice/Noisey.com, Forward, Spin Magazine, DaveyD.com, DJ Kay Slay's Streetsweeper Sirius XM Radio Show, The Opperman Report, Sa NeterTV, CBS's, "West 57th Street" (1988), The Biography Channel's, "I Survived a Cult" (2010), The Biography Channel's, "Escaping Evil: My Life in a Cult" (2013) and 2018's, ID (Investigation Discovery) Channel in conjunction with People Magazine "Cults." Look for upcoming feature on Mr. Amani in February 2019 on Oxygen Channel and currently in a special edition of People Magazine on cults. Amani is the author of seven books, including the groundbreaking “Hip-Hop Homophobes...” (iuniverse.com ’07). Khalil was the first media person to write about the allegations surrounding Afrika Bambaataa allegedly getting stabbed for date-raping a young man in 2013 and is in the upcoming documentary on the Afrika Bambaataa allegations, Trapped in a Culture. Amani majored in English and Black Studies at San Diego Mesa College and the University of Nebraska. Follow on IG @khalil_amani, Facebook, Twitter @khalilamani. Email @firstname.lastname@example.org