Tag Archives: death

Why We Should Value Death

I attended a conference a few weeks ago that focused on living a meaningful life. One of the first speakers asked us a simple yet profound question: How do you want to be remembered?Why We Should Value Death

When you contemplate that type of question, you must inevitably contemplate death, that inescapable commonality of humanity.

We are all going to die.

Steve Jobs probably had the best outlook on death I’ve ever heard in a statement he made several years before his death during a commencement address at Stanford. He said death is a motivator in life:  

“Almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I don’t like to think about death. I don’t want to consider dying. I know it will happen one day, but I have plenty I still want to do and can do before that transition. Yet, the best tool to push me toward those things I want to do and the person I want to be is my mortality.

We never know when our time will be up. Any day can be our last. Unfortunately, we don’t live by that reality. But what if we did? What would that look like? What would you start building if you were more conscious of the fact the clock was ticking down on your time here? What are you afraid to lose, or afraid to start? See how that fear shrinks when you stand it next to death.

Then think of what matters in light of death. Who do you value most? What do you value most? Is your time spent in proper proportion when you measure it by your values?

There are some simple things we could do now, simple steps we can take today to live in light of our mortality. I started to prioritize time with people since contemplating the questions I encountered at the conference. We’re all busy. There’s always work to do. But an extra 30 minutes of conversation, or lingering a little longer while visiting friends or relatives won’t ruin your schedule.

I much rather be remembered as someone who was available for people than one who was just a hard worker and always busy. We wear busyness like a badge of honor these days, as if our lives are more meaningful because we’re always occupied. Sure, we have important things to do and responsibilities to fulfill, but if we don’t put a premium on people and being available, at the end of our lives, we risk being remembered for things that don’t matter.

Death is inevitable. You get no choice in the matter. But living a life of meaning and the type of life you want is up to you. As Steve Jobs said, death is a tool to help you make the right choices in life. Make sure you spend your days on what you value most.

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We’re Not God, We Don’t Have Answers

Sunday night I was stunned and saddened to find out, via Twitter, that Dr. Myles Munroe, a renowned pastor and leader from the Bahamas, died in a plane crash along with his wife and seven others. I loved listening to Dr. Munroe speak. His teaching was so profound, insightful, and inspiring. And he always had a smile on his face when he preached, so he felt welcoming.We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

Though I haven’t heard Dr. Munroe in a while, and haven’t read any of his books (he’s written or co-authored about 100), his tragic death hit home for me.

When untimely tragedies like this happen, we are forced to contemplate difficult questions of life and faith. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper answers to the questions.

I read several post on social media following news of Dr. Munroe’s death Sunday, with some people saying the pastor had finished his assignment and that his work on earth was complete. Those words are often used to help the mourning come to terms with their loss, but I question the accuracy of it.

How do we know Dr. Munroe’s assignment was complete and his purpose fulfilled? It might have been, but it might not have been either. Surely he has done more than most to advance the Kingdom of God in his lifetime, and he lived a full life. But just 60 years old and en route to a leadership conference, Dr. Munroe could have still done plenty more and impacted more lives.

I don’t know if Dr. Munroe’s time was up and he was just ordained to die on that day. But neither does anyone else on earth.

We like to have answers. Maybe we think it will help us sleep better at night or deal with difficulties in life. Maybe it’s just part of our culture, or just human arrogance that we need to know why. But I’ve found God rarely gives us answers despite our myriad questions. And He does it for a reason…faith.

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him when He tells us to do something that makes no sense. Trust Him when we experience an inexplicable tragedy. Trust Him in life, and trust Him in death. We don’t need answers, we just need Him. And though He never promised us answers, He has promised His presence.

Our theology — no matter how profound, historical, researched, spiritual and biblical — is inadequate to provide reasons and answers to difficult things of life. We do more harm than good when we try to give an explanation for everything.

God has the answers, not us. In our immaturity, we probe Him for answers. But in our maturity, we realize He is the answer. And that is enough.

Death is always a hard thing to process. And I don’t fault people seeking answers in pain. There are two great perspectives on death and mourning I highly recommend. First, my friend Jordan Rice, who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, has written beautifully on this topic. Check out his blog post: Trapped in the Grip of Grace. Second, to go deeper on death and the hope after it, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is an excellent and profound read.



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Mourn with Those Who Mourn

A friend of mine always offers a profound perspective on mourning. Just more than a year ago, he lost his wife to a rare form of cancer. His strength, wisdom, and faith through the journey have been incredible. In the video link here, he shares some of the process he’s been through. Below is an excerpt from his blog, Crossroads. He shares a practical and powerful “how-to” mourn with those who are suffering. I encourage you to check it out.

Mourn with those who mourn

By Jordan Rice

The other day, I was in the hallway at my office building and a man was walking in with severe difficulty. He has polio, and as his metal arm and leg braces supported his weight, he walked gingerly and assuredly. As timing would have it, the floor was recently mopped and still wet. I cringed as he walked, fearing the worst and I went to his side to make sure that he wouldn’t fall, and he told me perhaps the most profound thing I’ve heard all year. “If I fall, let me fall, you’ll do more harm than good by trying to stop it.”

As soon as he said it, it hit me like a ton of bricks…this is what happens over and over again when people deal with other hurting people. With the greatest of intentions, we try to stop people from falling into pain, and unknowingly cause more pain in the process.

When Paul says to mourn with those who mourn, he’s saying don’t try and stop them from falling into pain, the best thing you can do is walk beside them and help them up.

How can you do that? Here’s what I’ve gathered in the last 16 months of conversations with hurting people.

Be physically available and present with people hurting.
Facebook likes and ReTweets are nice, text messages are even better, but people overestimate what a cliché will accomplish and greatly underestimate what just sitting around with someone will do. NOTHING says I’m here with you like actually being with them. If you’re trying to solve people’s pain, this’ll be uncomfortable for you, because the first thing you’ll think about is that you don’t know what to say. If that happens, realize that you being there is the best message you’ll ever preach.

Don’t don’t don’t reach out to a person and get deep. Christians have this problem more than non-Christians in my experience, but its still a pervasive problem. What people want is their loved one back or for their suffering to stop, not a well thought out statement. What do you say to the husband whose wife just hung herself? Or what should you say to the parent whose child died of a brain tumor at 7 years old? Better yet, what do you say to the man who just got diagnosed with AIDS? I hope you’re drawing blanks, because you should. You shouldn’t know what to say, because there isn’t anything profound that can be said. If I broke my shin and went to the E.R., I’m not going to hear the doctor tell me what happened to my bone, I’m going to get it set, so the healing can begin. For you its the same, be a part of the process, nothing more.

Make definitive requests to hang out or do something for them. Most people that are hurting are in such a fog that they have no idea in the world what they want to do or should do. I get that you don’t want to burden them, and you shouldn’t, but it helps tremendously when people didn’t make me think of what I wanted to do, they presented definite options and gave me a lot of space to accept or reject it.

Simply sending a text and asking could you come over at 6 p.m. on Thursday is great. One of the best things someone did for me was taking me out to dinner two weeks after my wife died. He invited me out at a specific date to a specific place and didn’t make me think about too much. I could’ve said no, and I’ve said no to a million things, but I didn’t have to think.

Please don’t try and make someone feel better faster. They’ll feel better when they can process what happened, not a second sooner. I had a lady that told me that I should just think about how good God was and then I’d feel better. Statements like that or “snap out of it” type of attitudes are incredibly damaging.

Be committed to them. It’s a new place for them, and they need friends, old and new. Make some sacrifices to be available to them. It’ll go a very very long way.

Bite off more than you can chew. They need you, but so does your family and you need yourself. If you overcommit you’ll end up burning yourself out and be no good for them or you.


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Nothing to Lose

nothing to lose

By Kevin Howell

Everybody Hates Chris is one of my favorite TV shows. I didn’t start watching it until it went into syndication, and I really didn’t know what I was missing. It’s hilarious, which you’d figure since it’s created and narrated by Chris Rock.

I recall one episode when Mr. Omar, the funeral home director who is a tenant of Chris’ family, gets a misdiagnosis for an illness and he’s told he only has a few weeks to live. With nothing to lose, Mr. Omar — played by Roger from What’s Happening by the way — begins to give away his possessions, and starts to speak his mind without reservation. He starts to live without fear, and takes risks because, well, when you’re about to die, nothing is really risky. Ultimately Mr. Omar finds out that his illness isn’t terminal and he changes his ways — no longer living as carefree as he did when faced with mortality.

Death has that affect on us. Steve Jobs once said that death is the greatest motivator in life because it forces us to focus on the things we love most and that matter most. I believe that. I also believe death has a liberating factor. The thought of it frees us from insecurities, fears, and most limitations. It helps us realize, with a better perspective, that we have nothing to lose.

About a year ago, when my friend’s wife died, I remember a shift in my focus. I didn’t know her well at all, but I empathized with his loss. And subconsciously, some of my fears and insecurities became insignificant. I began to speak up when I’d normally stay quiet. I began take risks that I wouldn’t dare to take previously. I spoke more candidly than I did in the past. It was like an invisible restraint fell off me and I began to function freely. Life was put into a clearer perspective for me.

I don’t think it takes a death in the family or a terminal diagnosis for this shift to happen. Even a figurative “death” can shake our perspective and relieve us of our restraints. A few years ago, after a relationship I was in ended, a similar shift happened. I think after we lose something we love, when something we could always grasp in our hands is taken from us, we realize we have nothing to lose. We start to evaluate other things that we are holding onto, wondering if they are worth the grip. In light of what we just lost, is our reputation, pride, image, status, fear, worry or any reservation worth holding onto? When someone or something we cared about is gone, we look at our other cares, and they usually pale in comparison. We see them as they really are: insignificant.

It doesn’t have to take a death to change our perspective. We can discover it in life. We can take an inventory of our cares and concerns. Look at the things that make you come alive, that bring happiness and meaning to your life. These are the things you’d grieve if you lost them. Value and appreciate those things. Now look at the other things you hold onto. Those things that are expendable. Those things that would become meaningless if you lost the meaningful things. Let them go. Let them die. You have nothing to lose.


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The Real Tragedy of Dan Wheldon’s Death

Dan Wheldon

By Kevin Howell

I’ve been thinking about the death of race car drive Dan Wheldon recently. It was such a horrific scene on that Las Vegas racetrack Sunday, and so sad that someone so young and so talented lost his life. Wheldon was a two-time Indy 500 winner, one of the most famous and prestigious events in all of auto racing. He won the race earlier this year.

Obviously in the aftermath of this tragedy, there is a lot of talk about the safety of the sport, and the conditions of the track that day. And with any loss of life, thoughts go to the family of the victim. In this case, a wife and two young children are left behind. But as I was thinking Sunday about Wheldon’s death, I was a little conflicted within. The fact that a guy died at 33 is quite tragic. But was it tragic how he died? I mean, I thought that no one should die that way. Yes, it’s a dangerous sport, and drivers know the inherent risks involved with it. I can’t fault the activity for Wheldon’s death. And honestly, though his life was indeed cut short, just maybe it wasn’t tragic how he died. Maybe Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved. Maybe he died doing his passion. Is that tragic?

My thoughts were somewhat confirmed the day after the crash when Wheldon’s father, Clive, said: “Daniel was born to be a racer and left us doing what he loved to do.”

Whenever someone dies, we are faced with those soul-searching questions of life. It makes us think of our own mortality, and puts things in perspective. As the late Steve Jobs once said: “Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

If there’s one lesson we can learn from Dan Wheldon’s death, it’s that the greatest tragedy wasn’t the fatal accident on the track Sunday. It’s that thousands of people watched the news of the accident, thinking they just witnessed a tragedy, but the truth is many of them are living a tragedy every day. The tragedy of not doing what they love, following their hearts, and living a meaningful, passionate life. Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved. It should be a reminder to us to live, doing what we love.


“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”                                                                                                                              – W.H. Murray

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