Tuesday, April 11, 2017

You're Never Too Young to Die

A fellow from my high-school class of 1964 died recently. His passing elicited the usual and expected comments on Facebook noting that he will be missed, and it's sad, and our prayers are with the family, and he died way too soon. Wait a minute.... way too soon? He was 70. I checked the actuarial tables and learned that in 2017, the average life expectancy for a male is 76 years, but man who is already 65 can expect to live to be 84. So yes, Paul died sooner than he needed to as far as the insurance people go. But of course no age is "too soon" to die.

The truth of this has been with me since childhood when I saw my six-year-old friend Eric dead at the end of his bathrobe belt, hanging from the shower rod in his bathroom. Sorry to be gruesome, but it happened. I was nine at the time. Putting two and two together, I came up with the obvious conclusion that death has no age limit.

Until that point my parents had assured me that only old people die, and after it they explained that Eric's death was "an accident." But they were clearly wrong about that, like some other things I discovered later in life. (If you don't remove a splinter it will not end up in your stomach where a tree will then grow; light bulbs do not explode in a room left empty for more than five minutes; going outside with wet hair does not cause colds; not all Germans hate all Jews.)

Since then I have seen many babies, children, teens and young adults die, either from accidents or illness or suicide, or even worse, murder. Each death was deemed a tragedy, prompting a collective cry from the mourners that the deceased was taken "way too young," no matter the age. So when a man of 70 dies after years of fighting cancer, my first thought is not that his death came "way too soon." My first thought is "he's exactly my age." My second thought is "I could go at any minute, and so could everyone I know."

Now get out there and have a nice day!

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