Reflections on Death

Posted on May 6, 2020

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By David Ettinger

A Tragic List
A few days back, I received an email telling me that my uncle, age 97, died after a long, dynamic life. Sadly, however, his last days were spent alone in a New York City hospital as visitors were barred due to the coronavirus.

The next day, Don Shula, the legendary American football coach, died at age 90. He, too, had lived a long and dynamic life.

The next day I watched a video on what had come of the five child stars of the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. All but one is still with us, that one being the girl who was turned into a blueberry, Denise Nickerson. In 2018 she suffered a horrible stroke. In 2019, the suffering was so bad that she made her way to the medicine cabinet and swallowed every pill in it. She died the next day at age 62.

Later, I had an urge to listen to Flamenco music, so I did a YouTube search and found Charo, known here in the States for her ditziness. In reality, though, she is anything but, and in fact is a talented classical guitarist. Fortunately, she is still with us, but I learned that her husband took his life at age 78. According to Charo: “In recent years, his health began to decline and he developed a rare and horrible skin disease called Bullous pemphigoid. He also became very depressed. That, along with the many medications he needed to take, became too much for him, and he ended his suffering.” So sad.

Other deaths I have pondered over the years:

Popular Hollywood actor William Holden, an Oscar winner who enjoyed many years in the limelight, died alone in his house in 1981 when, while drunk, passed out. On the way to the ground, he banged his head on a table and bled to death. His body was discovered several days later.

Actor James Gandolfini, who enjoyed fame later in life, died suddenly in 2013 at the age of 51 in his Rome hotel room. His 13-year-old son Michael discovered him unconscious on the bathroom floor. Gandolfini was rushed to the hospital, but pronounced dead 20 minutes later of a heart attack.

The mega-talent musician and songwriter Prince, who played to sold-out stadiums and was idolized throughout the world, died alone in an elevator of his mansion. He had been lying there at least six hours. He died of an overdose of Fentanyl at age 57.

Nothing Too Profound
I don’t have anything too earthshaking by way of commentary other than to say that death is horrible, brutal, and unnatural. It was never a part of God’s original creation, but came into the world as result of humanity’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

Even “good deaths,” as experienced by my elderly uncle and the football legend, are wretched. They follow some kind of deterioration and decay of the body, and are thereby painful and accompanied by suffering.

Another truth about death is that it comes to everyone; there are no exceptions (save the Rapture). Regarding most on the above list, though rich, famous, powerful, and adored by millions, they all died in the same way as the most obscure of human beings, thus reminding us that “God is no respecter of persons ” (Acts 10:34).

The question now is: Where are they? Well, that’s easy. 1 John 5:11-12 tells us: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

The bottom line is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sins, and He promises this: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

In a nutshell, those who refuse Jesus’ free gift of salvation will spend eternity in torment in Hell. Those who accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation will spend eternity with Him in heavenly glory. This is the most important truth the world has ever known, but does the world believe it?

May we who have accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation be faithful in sharing this most crucial of truths!