As a subject of conversation, death is an uncomfortable topic. Should it be?
Some of us are more intimately familiar with it than others, but it’s ultimately a reality that touches everyone. Having just survived a harrowing motorcycle accident and been spared serious injury, I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that this topic is on my mind.
In that context, let me take you back to something written by John Donne (1572-1631). Donne was both an English preacher and a prolific writer who lived at a time when church bells would regularly peal out across cities as part of funeral proceedings. An introspective thinker, Donne penned these famous words over four-hundred years ago, but they remain relevant and thought provoking today:
No man is an island . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (Meditation 17)
He was right. Today’s Focus on the Family program features another thinker and intellectual, the late UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. Coach Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99. He was the epitome of the great man, a fellow who saw himself as a “tool” and “fool” for Jesus Christ.
By all accounts he was the world’s greatest coach, but he would regularly dismiss accolades. Instead, he would just tell you how much he loved to teach young kids. He was also very open about his faith in Jesus. I hope you’ll tune into the program by clicking here.
On a related note, yesterday’s Denver Post featured a cover story on Denver Broncos legend John Elway. Today is his 50th birthday—Happy Birthday, John! The article was crafted as a bit of a retrospective on Elway’s life and accomplishments to date. “I’ve got to be totally honest,” John was quoted as saying. “I was watching TV when John Wooden recently died, and in an interview they asked him if he was afraid of dying, and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’ That was the very first time in my life I asked myself, ‘Would you be afraid to die?’ I can’t answer yes or no, but reaching 50, I’ve started to conjure up thoughts of my own mortality.”
I’m not quite as old as John Elway, but I am closing in on the 50 year mark. Speaking very personally, I am not afraid to die—but even more importantly, I pray that I’m not afraid to live. Which is why I appreciate this perspective from the book of Job: “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (1:21).
Ronald Reagan liked to tell the story of a fellow who came upon a tombstone in an old Irish cemetery with the following inscription:
Remember Me As You Go By
For As You Are So Once Was I
And As I am, So Too Will You Be
So Be Content To Follow Me
The message caused the man to leave a note of his own, perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, scribbled on a piece of paper and taped to the top of the stone. He wrote:
To follow you I am content. I only wish I knew which way you went!
Coach Wooden knew where he was going—and we now know where he is. I know where I’m going. How about you? If you have questions about how to have a relationship with Jesus, or you’re a believer who, nevertheless, is apprehensive about dying, I invite you to call us at 1-800-AFAMILY and speak with one of the members of our staff. We’d be delighted to speak with you.
Follow me on Twitter @DalyFocus