I remember the first time I heard the song Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel (I’ve never really been a fan of the guy), I was young myself, and I never knew how many times I would hear that song in my head throughout my life, in spite of the fact that I never liked the song. The song is sadly true. I’ve seen way too many good people die young. It pisses me off because I see so many evil people live to be old. I recently watched a video of Pol Pot, the communist freak that killed millions of his fellow countrymen in the name of radical egalitarianism, and his dream of bringing about an agrarian utopia in Cambodia, made famous by the movie, The Killing Fields, 1984. The man died at a ripe old age. He lived a full life: as did Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and I could go on with more modern or familiar names, but, I’ll digress before this sounds like partisan politics. It’s not. It’s about my friend. But, when I think of “evil incarnate” I always think of politicians. So, yes, only the good seem to die young.
And my friend Wyatt died at 26. It broke my heart like no other death I can recall. He died for no good reason. He died because he hurt. He died because life was one big, painful question mark that seemed to have no answer in sight for him. He died because he ended up living in his head, a lonely place for anyone. Inside of our heads, we can be our own worst nightmare.
Life is good, bad, and indifferent. The older I get, the more I realize that happiness, at least as humanity defines happiness, is elusive at best, and, more probable, impossible to find; yet, there are other emotions and attitudes that contribute to our happiness.
Joy is something I think we can maintain through any experience in life, if we have a relationship with God, and for me, that means Christ. I’ve seen people dying of horrible diseases, and in desperate pain, that still had joy. They weren’t necessarily happy, but, they displayed an inner peace—joy—that was inexplicable to someone who has no belief in God.
I knew a very faithful young woman that had Cystic Fibrosis. She was such an inspiration. This young lady, who died very young (I think she was 26 as well), was one of the most joyful people I had ever seen in spite of her pain, inability to breath, and her daily walk, hand-in-hand, with death. She was always smiling. Why? Why did she smile? She gave me perspective. She showed me true faith.
No matter the perspective we may have at any given time, nothing prepares us for the death of someone young–especially if that death is unnecessary or could have been avoided.
It’s so final to those of us on this side of the experience. In life, we can always find a mentor, a teacher, someone who can show us the ropes in business, or whatever we may lack concerning knowledge, but not when it comes to death. Death is an experience that cannot be shared. It is ours alone to walk through someday, and we all either fear it, ignore it, or welcome it. I once feared it. I’ve seen others who seem to embrace it like an upcoming exotic trip. My mother welcomed death.
My mother was an old hippy and practiced TM (Transcendental Meditation) in the early 70’s when the Beetles, and all of the hippies, were doing it. She said she had an out-of-body experience that calmed all of her fears of death. When she was facing her last days on this Earth, she did so with dignity and peace of mind. She died of bone cancer and was in complete agony for about four months before her death. It showed me, once again, how not to fear death.
I’m getting better, but, no matter how many times I see death, I still hide from its glare. I don’t like to look at it, and I don’t let it see me if I can help it. In fact, I think we should be born old, knowing everything, and then get younger as we go through life, instead of older. My little buddy that recently died was in the prime of his life. He was such an intelligent guy. He had dreams and goals, and, the saddest part, he died because of a set of unfortunate mishaps that aligned one day. His death was, more or less, an accident of misfortune that might have been avoided. But, there is no hindsight in death. It just is. Nothing can bring him back. No analyzing will do. It’s in the hands of God, and no one else.
I’ve seen a lot of death in my life. I have seen older, sweet people die peacefully, and I’ve seen horrible deaths: accidents, shootings, suicides, and other nasty things that haunt my mind. I watched my beautiful, young niece die at seventeen. Damn that hurt. And the day before Thanksgiving? My family spent that day picking out a casket for a child rather than which main course to enjoy–turkey or ham.
If I were to be honest, I think it was death that drove me to take a more serious look at the story of Christ—Christianity—and the Bible. For me, it’s the only book that seems to tell stories about death, all kinds of death, and that it isn’t just some black hole, some dark ending, some lonely existence, or, worse yet, nothing at all.
I was watching season six of Game of Thrones and in one of the scenes (I think it’s episode three), John Snow is brought back to life—resurrected—by the Red Woman. When she realizes that her spell has worked and that John Snow is alive, she rushes into the room, filled with excited anticipation, and asks John Snow, “What did you see?” In other words, what is on the other side of death. John Snow stares for a moment, as if trying to remember, and then, in a rather anticlimactic and dark moment, he says, “Nothing…there was nothing.” That is what most of humanity thinks. That is why we hate death. That is why we fear death. My buddy who died spoke to me about this very thing, often. He feared death. He also feared life, and sadly, in many ways, that is what caused his death.
Within days of Wyatt’s death, I heard about the death of another friend—a mentor of mine—that I had not seen in several years. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. He was a strong, athletic man who had a young physique until his last days. I was only able to watch his final year alive through pictures. He was always smiling, until the end. I have felt so surrounded by death lately, even though its cold stare no longer controls me. Christ’s light shines brightly on death, and it slithers away.
~I choose life~
Death be damned. To those who have passed on, I will see you soon. I love you. Scott