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They Don’t Care Until You're Gone: 4 Lessons from The Death of Nigeria's First Female Combat Pilot

The news is, once again, awash with stories of another major death.

The unexpected and sudden passing away of Tolulope Arotile.

If it wasn’t stated, for the record, what she achieved, you reading this post might not really take to heart the news of her death, especially in light of all the reported deaths that have taken place so far in a really strange year for all of us.

But she’s Tolulope Arotile.

She reportedly lost her life after sustaining head injuries from a road traffic accident in Kaduna. She was 25 years old.

Prior to her death, she held the record for being the first female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria, specifically in the history of the Nigerian Air Force. A credible achievement right there.

Now, her death has, by this point, probably gained some weight.

For what she achieved, and for all the value that she provided through her profession as military personnel in service to the nation, her death is a huge loss, for which she will be sorely missed.

But, in light of her death, some reactions to the unfortunate incident have served to reiterate some truths about death and the value of a person in the society.

Here are some of these hard, but true lessons about life that we can take away from the unfortunate incident:

1.     You can, and will be taken for granted, right up until you die. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t have value.

It is said often that you do not know what (or who) you have until you lose it. And I believe that is, by all means, applicable to Tolulope Arotile’s death.

Before her demise, she was just another military personnel serving her country; though she was the country’s first fighter pilot, she was just another servicewoman in the Air Force, that not much people knew about.

In essence, it was known, the value she could provide. It wasn’t just thought much of. She was, to an extent, taken for granted.

But now that she’s gone? Now, she’s the subject of Rest In Peace wishes on social media; now, some people that never even heard of her, are mourning like they had a personal relationship with the lady.

While the gravity of her loss is not in anyway to be undermined, it seems a little strange that, to some people, who didn’t know or would hardly have cared about her before, it’s now like she meant the world to them.

And for the people who were related to or knew her, for those to whom she did mean something:

2.     People don’t really care about you. Not these days. It takes the occurrence of extreme events for people to realize just how much you meant to them.

Right up until her death, aside her family, relatives and friends, as well as the Air Force, nobody else really knew who she was.

Well, that’s beside the main point. The fact that a larger part of Nigeria and the society at large didn’t know her isn’t really the point.

It’s one thing to not know, or to know, or at least hear about someone. Then it’s another thing to actually matter to someone or some people.

In her case, it took the cold jaws of death snatching her life for people to realize that, for what she achieved, she did mean something: to herself, to her family, to her friends, to the Air Force, and to the society at large.

The point is, even for those who at least knew her on some level, she did matter, but not exactly at the level at which she matters to them now that she’s dead and gone.

And it’s quite sad, because in addition to the statement that you do not know what you have until you lose it, it’s also true that while you may indeed know what (or who) you have, you may also take them for granted.

Their existence, to you, is more or less part of a routine that you’ve comfortably settled into; that you do not really show much concern about, or put much thought into.

Until the shock of permanently losing them hits you with the force of a train.

It’s most certainly happened to her family, relatives and friends in this case. And to some other people that, at least, knew her to some extent.

But, as far as the larger society was concerned, prior to her death, people don’t really care. And now that she’s gone, some people still don’t.

3.     Death does not and will not respect you or your achievements in life, regardless of the magnitude.

It doesn’t matter whether you were saving a person’s life before death came for you.

It doesn’t matter if you found the cure for a terminal disease, or were on the verge of doing so.

It doesn’t matter if you were anyone – a Nobel Laureate, an Oscar winner, a world champion…

...Or the first female combat pilot of a sovereign state.

And it also is of no consequence if you were someone yet to achieve anything meaningful in life.

It means nothing if there were yet to be any tangible accomplishments to credit you with. Death cares for nothing.

Shattered hopes. Failed ambitions. Promises not kept. Dreams that never became reality. The next revolution that could have been.

And wasted souls.

Death cares not for any of these. And it never will. The grave doesn’t care who you are, who you were, or what you were supposed to be.

It’s a biblical injunction that God is no respecter of persons. Well, neither is death, apparently.

4.     It only takes one – to end something – or everything.

One. One is all it takes.

It takes one number, one letter, or even one tiny decimal point out of place, for an entire formula, no matter how complex, to become wrong.

It takes one scandal to destroy a reputation which took decades to build.

And, for becoming Nigeria’s first ever female fighter pilot, and for all other things that Tolulope Arotile achieved in this life, one accident was all it took for her to now lose everything she worked for; everything she labored to enjoy the fruits of.

It took one thing out of place to permanently erase all her prospects, all her aspirations, all she had set her heart on achieving.

An accident that could have been prevented was all it took to dash all her family’s hopes and dreams for her to the ground – for life.

One accident is all it has taken to affect the lives of her family and her people – forever.

And the accident, was apparently, serious enough for the injuries she sustained to leave her without so much as a single hope for survival.

So, these are but a few of the key things to reflect on from Ms. Arotile’s unfortunate demise.

For who she was, what she achieved, and for her service to the nation, she is much appreciated, and will be sorely missed.

May her soul rest in peace, and may God grant her family, at this time, the fortitude to bear her loss.

But, aside these lessons in the aftermath of the tragic incident, one unspoken, but true reality of life remains: whoever you are is inconsequential to a larger part of society. Unless you’ve achieved something that the society deems to be of value.

In other words, no one, aside from your family, really cares about you. Not anymore, at least.

It’s true that every person has some basic, intrinsic value as a human being. But how many people actually understand that?

No one really cares these days. The sooner you realize that, the easier life, as hard as it is presently, gets, even if only slightly.

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