Tag Archives: Death

After I am Dead

cheating death

As soon as some Christian fundamentalists read this headline they will shout at their screen:

  • You will be burning in hell!
  • You will know that there is a God!
  • You will know I was right!

They will see my death as a vindication of their belief system, and I wonder how many of them will say to themselves, I bet Bruce wishes he had listened to me! The Calvinists will says to themselves, now we know he was not one of the elect!  They will speak of the preacher turned atheist who now knows the TRUTH.

Now, if they bother to read the read the rest of this post they will see I that this post is not about my e-t-e-r-n-a-l destiny. I have no concern over God, judgment, or hell. I am satisfied that hell is the creation of those who want to control people through fear so they can demand moral conformity or gain wealth. Since their holy book lost its power and authority over me, I no longer fear God or hell. I am confident that this is the only life I will ever have, and once I die I will be…drum roll please, d-e-a-d.

So, this post is not about the afterlife or my eternal destiny. What I want to do in this post is share what my last will and testament is regarding what happens after I draw my last breath.

First, I do not want a funeral service. Waste of time, effort, and money. No need for fake friends or distant family members to show up and weep fake tears. No need for flowers. Ugh, what a waste of money. I want Polly to spend as little as possible on disposing of my dead carcass. Trust me, I won’t care.

Second, I want to be cremated. No special urn. A cardboard box will work just fine. If Polly wants to show her love for me, a Hostess cupcake box would be sweet.   As I jokingly told someone, when I am cremated, I will go from ass to ashes.

Third, I want my ashes to be spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Polly knows the place. I hope my children, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, and close family, will be there. I want no prayers said and as few tears as possible. Perhaps those who are gathered will share a funny story, one of their many Butch/Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories. I hope they will remember me for the good I have done and forgive me for those moments when I was less than I could or should have been.

And that’s it. Dust to dust ashes to ashes, as the waves of Lake Michigan lap up and absorb my ashes.

I hope Polly will let the readers of this blog know that I won’t be blogging anymore. I guess I better leave her specific instructions so she can successfully login and post.  If not, readers will start wondering if I have “quit” again…yes, I have, but this time it really will be for good.

You see, for me, as an atheist, life is not about dying but living. Since I am on the short side of life, I dare not waste any time. When death comes, the battery in my life clock will be depleted. Like the Big Ben clock beside our bed, the one I listen to late at night as it clicks off the seconds, I know there is coming a day when I will hear click and that will be it.

I have no time to think about death. It’s coming and it will find me whether I am ready or not. All I can do is live my life the best I can and let how I lived my life testify to the kind of man I was.

How about you? As an atheist, what do you want to happen after you die? Have you made funeral plans? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Published: July 28, 2014 | Comments: 15

If There is No Life After Death, I Might as Well Kill Myself Now


A recent commenter stated:

Second, you mention in one post that you care about the journey, not the destination, of your readers. If the destination for all of us is only death, I can’t think of anything more depressing, anything less motivating for caring about the journey. Who gives a flip about the journey if the end is death? The journey for all of us is full of pain and suffering, in one way or another. If death is the only end for all of us, I’d rather end it right now. The last person I would trust to help me on my journey is a preacher of a hopeless death.

Over the years, countless Christians have said to me that if they believed that this life is all there is that they would kill themselves. Of course, this is little more than hyperbole since I seriously doubt people like this commenter would actually kill themselves just because they are disappointed there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The above mentioned comment reveals a view held by many Christians, that life is filled with pain and suffering and our journey is one long test of endurance. For Christians who think like this, the only reason for enduring life is that there is a divine payoff after death.

I know a good bit about pain and suffering. Long time readers know well my story and the health problems I have. Yet, I would never say that my journey is all about pain and suffering. Yes, I wish I didn’t have to live with pervasive, chronic, unrelenting pain. But, the pain is not the sum of my life. If it was, I would be the first to say that it is time for me to hop on the long black train.

I have everything to live for. A wonderful wife, six awesome children, and nine grandchildren. Need I say more about why, whatever pain I suffer on my journey to the grave, is worth it? There is so much to live for and I don’t need the promise of a divine payoff to make my life worth living. I don’t need a God for my life to have meaning, purpose, and direction.

Many Christians have a hard time understanding people like me. They can not envision a life without God. Their life revolves around God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church. I totally understand where they are coming from. For most of my life, I thought the same way.

When I first deconverted, I was lost for a time. This is a common problem for people who were once deeply immersed in Christianity. Once God, the church, and the Bible no longer had any authority over my life, I was forced to determine for myself how I wanted to live my life. In humanism I found purpose, meaning and direction. Since this life is the ONLY life I have, I have EVERYTHING to live for.

The above mentioned commenter thinks my life is hopeless. Without a promise of life after death and eternity in heaven, what is there to live for?  Atheists live such a hopeless life, or so many Christians think. Let me close out this post with some of my hopes:

  1. I hope my family lives long, prosperous, peaceful lives.
  2. I hope my grandson grows up to play baseball for the Cincinnati Reds so I can watch him play.
  3. I hope at least one of my granddaughters becomes a scientist.
  4. I hope the Cincinnati Reds win the World Series and the Cincinnati Bengals win the Super Bowl.
  5. I hope that someday all the weapons of violence in the world will be destroyed.
  6. I hope that my wife and I will grow old together and that we will continue to have a blessed life.
  7. I hope to travel to many of the places on my bucket list.
  8. I hope we will end income inequality in America.
  9. I hope we will pass immigration reform, allowing millions of hard-working people to become US citizens.
  10. I hope scientists will find cures for many of the diseases that kill us.
  11. I hope we will figure out a way to control world population and in doing so make sure that every human has enough food to eat and clean water to drink.
  12. I hope Americans will begin to take the threat of global climate change seriously.
  13. I hope I win or inherit a few million dollars so I can have one awesome party and buy a house for each of my children.
  14. I hope to someday get my book done and publish it.
  15. I hope to take a photograph that is published in National Geographic or a photography magazine.
  16. I hope to master Photoshop.
  17. I hope all my internet friends  live long, happy, prosperous lives. For those of them that live with pain and disability like I do, I hope that they find purpose, meaning, and happiness, despite their suffering.
  18. I hope Bernie Sanders is the next president.

And for today? I hope that the Cincinnati Reds continue to pound the Pittsburgh Pirates and end up in first place at the All Star break. Most of all, as Polly and I go out tonight to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary, I hope we have a wonderful time. (anniversary is on the 15th) I hope both of us will reflect on how our marriage has prospered and endured despite of us. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, if I am not too tired when we get home that we might…………….

ricky gervais quote about life



Published: July 12, 2014 | Comments: 24

What if I Die Today?

if I die today

What if I die today?

Well that sucks, right?

Can you imagine what Christian fundamentalists will do with the news of my demise? They will see it as God getting in the last word. They will see it as Bruce the atheist getting his just due for being a God hating apostate. I wonder, will they secretly smile with delight, gleefully thinking that unrepentant Bruce is burning in hell?

I wonder if they will consider that perhaps they are usurping their God’s sole right to judge me and determine my eternal destiny? Perhaps the once saved, always saved Baptists are right and I will end up in heaven with my rapist Christian uncle.  I am sure former parishioners and colleagues in the ministry will lament my death. Perhaps they will use me as a cautionary tale…a reminder that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Of course none of this will matter to me. I will be d-e-a-d. My critics will get the last word, as the living always do. My family and friends will also get the last word. What they think of me is what really matters. I hope I leave behind the testimony of a life well lived. I hope they will have good things to say about me. I hope they will laugh over my peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. Most of all, I hope they will find comfort and hope through my willingness to die according to my beliefs.

There will be no last moment prayers, no calling for a minister. If I can script the last moments of my life, I want to be surrounded those I love. Though many tears will be shed, I hope they will know, as I draw my last breath, I loved them to the end. I hope they will see that death is a release from pain and suffering ,and that my death put an end to unrelenting, chronic pain that dogged me for so many years.

I will not give one thought to those who will rage against the atheist from Ney. They fail to see that in my world they don’t matter. They are little more than radio static, irritating noise that makes no difference to me.

I am sure a Christian is going to say, you sure do talk a lot about death, Bruce. If death is no big deal why do you write about it so often? I never said, death is no big deal. It is. I don’t want to die, and when I do it will be a big deal for my family and I. The reason I write about death is because it is always lurking in the shadows of my life. Even if I live another 20 years, and I highly doubt I will, 75% of my life is already gone. If my grandson lives to be the same age, he has 90% of his life yet ahead of him. it is a matter of perspective.

Age, pain, and chronic health problems make me acutely aware that death is not far away. Polly’s parents are almost 80 years old. Polly’s aunt was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer a few weeks ago. Her uncle is near death from cancer, another uncle is slowly dying from myasthenia gravis. Their lives are a reminder that no one lives forever. It seems like yesterday Polly and I were getting married and the very people mentioned in this paragraph were celebrating our nuptials with us. Now we are hobbled, broken, and old, a testimony to the path every one of us must walk.

I am a matter of fact kind of person. Life is what it is. I don’t think there is a bright side to everything. Outside of  being released from pain and suffering, dying will suck. Coming to terms with this helps me order my life. I no longer put off the things I want to do. If I can physically do something then I am going to do it. I fight my body for dominance of the schedule. Many days, it wins. Other days, I win. I live  with the understanding that no one is promised tomorrow. Some day, maybe today, my today will be the last day of life for me. It is the path we all must walk…

Published: June 16, 2014 | Comments: 5

Bruce, Do You Fear Death?

facing death

Of course I do, but not for the reasons you may be thinking.

I don’t fear death because of the prospect of meeting God face to face, the judgment, or hell. These myths have no power over me. Zealots for Jesus continue to roar out threatenings against me, warning me that I will wish that I had trusted Jesus one moment after I draw my last breath. I am immune to such things. I am no longer a child that can be threatened into believing or doing something. The Bible has no authority or power over me. Reason rules my mind and reason tells me that there is no afterlife, no heaven, and no hell.

But, Bruce you could be wrong, then what? Ah yes, here comes Pascal’s Wager. Better to be safe than sorry, right?  Better to trust Jesus and it be a lie than die without Jesus and find out there really is a God and a hell. The problem with this line of thinking is that those who use it assume that Christianity is the one true religion and that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. If Pascal’s Wager is the way to go…shouldn’t I embrace all the gods? This way all my bases are covered.

I do not worry about being wrong. I have weighed Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible in the balance scales and found them wanting. I see no evidence for an afterlife. Every dead person I have ever known is still dead. Outside of the mythical stories of the Bible, I know of no dead person coming back to life. Every time I drive by a cemetery it is a reminder that people die and when they die they stay dead. I can drive five miles to Bryan and visit the graves of my grandmother and mother. They are as dead today as they were almost a quarter of a century ago.

I fear death because I am not ready to die. Despite all the health problems I have, I still want to live. Like most humans, I want to live until I die. Even Christians, who brag about being ready to meet God, seem in no hurry to die. I know that I am on the short side of life. Most of my life is in the rear view mirror. Sometime beyond my next breath I am going to die. I understand this, accept it, and embrace it. And even if I didn’t, death would still, some day, come for me.

Death brings the cessation of life. Imagine being here one day and gone the next. My children and grandchildren came over yesterday for Father’s Day. Maybe this will be my last Father’s Day. Maybe there are no Christmas’s ahead for me. Who knows, right?  All any of us can do is live in the present and live life to its fullest. The Bible is right when it says, boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

I fear death because I have no power over death. I have no ability to put off death to another day. I can’t say to death, not today. Tomorrow morning, I will have my third brain scan in seven years. I will also have an EEG. I wonder what, if anything, they will find? I can’t change the results or the outcome. No matter what they find, I will continue to live until I don’t. I know I can’t cheat or beat death. It claims everyone it comes for.

Yes, is the answer to, Bruce do you fear death? While I may fear death, I do not allow it to control my life. I do not sit around waiting for death to show up. Death knows where I live, and when it is my time it will come and claim me. Until then, death will lurk in the shadows of my mind as I try to live each and every day to its fullest. I may give it notice in the still of the night, but I have so little time to live so I hope death will forgive me if I don’t spend much time worrying about that which I can not control.


Published: June 16, 2014 | Comments: 6

If One Soul Gets Saved it’s Worth it

polly mom and kathy 2005

Polly, Mom, Kathy Picture taken a few days before the accident

It is a sunny, spring day…

Memorial Day weekend

A wonderful day to be out and about on the Harley

Utica is having its annual ice cream festival, time to check it out

The  traffic is busy, better be careful

Too many people don’t pay attention to people on motorcycles

She doesn’t

She is in a hurry

She doesn’t want to wait in traffic

So she does it

In a moment

In the blink of an eye

She whips her little car around, making a u-turn

And there we are

Too late for anything but what is going to happen

Thrown from the motorcycle

Wife, sister, daughter, mother, granddaughter….

My head hits the pavement


Her lifeless body lies on the pavement

Every dream, every hope, every opportunity of tomorrow now gone

We turn to God and asked why

We pray for strength

The heavens are silent and they remain so even to this day

The funeral, the finality of it all

In a moment of anguished religious passion someone cries, if one soul gets saved through this it is worth it all

No it is not

How dare we reduce the worth of a life, this one life, to a bit player in God’s perverse cosmic drama

Let them all go to hell

For one more day, one more time where the joy and laughter of family can be heard

For one more day of all the complexities family brings

One more day

(In honor of my sister-in-law Kathy Hughes who died nine years ago)

Published: June 10, 2014 | Comments: 4

The Right to Self-Determination: Suicide


I grew up in a home where mental illness was very much part of the ebb and flow of family life. Somewhere in the 1960′s, my mother began having mental problems. To this day, I do not know what her exact diagnosis was. All I know is that my mother could be a perfectly normal, rational person and then, like a switch was flipped on, be the textbook definition of crazy. (a post I wrote about my mother on what would have been her 75th birthday)

She was a bright, well-read woman, passionate about politics and life. She played the piano, was a scratch cook, and had a backbone of steel when it came to standing against what she perceived was injustice.  In the 1970′s, she sued Winebrenner Nursing Home in Federal Court over wage discrimination and won. She also sued a doctor over a botched skin graft and won. She was a right-wing fanatic, an avid writer of letters to the editors of the local newspapers. She supported Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and thought the Kent State rioters got exactly what they deserved. Like many of her generation, she despised Martin Luther King Jr, believing that he was a communist.

She supported the feminist agenda, yet spent her life trying to keep a man in her life. Married 4 times, she was an beautiful woman who attracted the attention of men. Several weekends ago, Polly and I traveled to Fremont, Ohio to attend a dirt track race. One of the fan favorites was a man by the name of Art Ball. Ball began racing a half century ago, and, at the age of 74,he is still racing around the Fremont Speedway. The fans cheered every time Ball took the track. I laughed when they did. I told Polly, they may cheer Art Ball the driver, but I wonder how many of them had a mother who slept with Ball? Yep, back in the 1970′s, my mother dated Art Ball.  Over the years, I have walked by several old men on Bryan streets who had no clue who I was. But, I know who they are. I remember coming home late at night and there they would be sleeping on our couch. One night, I came home to a man sleeping on the couch and my mom lying on the floor next to him. His hand was on her breast.

Over the years, mom spent significant amounts of time at Toledo State Mental Hospital. She went through electroshock therapy treatment and was a life long prescription pill addict. I loved my mom dearly, but we never talked about her mental problems. Several years before she died, mom told me that her Dad had sexually molested her. I know that she was raped by her brother-in-law. I know this because I was home from school sick the day he came to our home and violated my mother. We had no phone, so she had me go to the neighbor’s house to call the police. They didn’t believe her. Why would anyone believe crazy Barbara?

Mom tried to kill herself many times. Drug overdoses, slit wrists. I remember coming home from school one day and finding mom lying in the middle of the floor. To this day, I can picture the blood. She had slit her wrists. At least twice, EMS was called and mom was taken to the local hospital to have her stomach pumped.

In the 1980′s, the suicide attempts abruptly stopped. I have no idea why. I suspect part of the reason was that she now had grandchildren. Mom began having health problems that robbed her of her vitality and strength. She no longer could work, and outside of leaving the house for doctor’s appointments, she rarely went anywhere. (she never heard me preach) As her health deteriorated, her thoughts turned again to suicide.

One early spring day in 1992, on a Sunday, mom took out her Ruger .357, pointed it at her heart, and pulled the trigger. In a matter of minutes she was dead. No note, no reason. I am left to speculate as to the what and why of things. I do know her heath was quite poor. She lived with constant pain and debility. While I think that she certainly wanted to kill herself, it is likely her husband helped end her life.

I write all of this because I think it is important for readers to understand my back story. When I write about suicide, it is an issue that I intimately understand. I know the pain and anguish that comes when you pick up the phone and hear the voice on the other end say, your mom is dead. She killed herself.

As a person who has chronic heath problems and lives with chronic, debilitating, unrelenting pain every day, I know how these things affect the mind. I have battled with depression most of my adult life and I have thought about suicide more than a few times.

When healthy people read that I have thoughts about committing suicide, they often try to remind me of all that I have to live for or they try to make me feel guilty by telling me that suicide is a selfish act. How dare I even consider checking out since I have a wife, children, and grandchildren. You have everything to live for, they tell me.

While I appreciate their well-intentioned words, the truth is, they don’t know what they are talking about. How could they? Until they walk in my shoes, they can not know why I might want to end it all. Until they trade bodies with me and experience the pain, from head to toe, in almost every joint, they can not truly understand.

This is a life I would not wish on anyone. In many ways, the chronic pain and debility has become the hell that Christians keep telling me that I am headed to. Do I have a right to determine when I no longer want to endure this? Do I have the right to say, enough? We seem to be OK with the cancer patient saying ENOUGH and asking for the last push of morphine that puts them into a coma they will never recover from. Why is it any different for them? Shouldn’t each of us have a right to determine how and when our life ends? While we had no choice about when/how/where we were born, do we not have the right to negotiate the terms of our own death?

Sadly, many people think that life is always better than death, that a person should ALWAYS choose to live given the opportunity. They think we should radiate ourselves, poison ourselves with chemo, and let doctors endlessly experiment on us, just so we can gain a few extra months of life. Is this how we really want to spend the last days of our life? I know I don’t.

The means of death are as close as the medications I take. I don’t need to call a Doctor Jack to end my life. I take medications that, if taken by the handful, would ensure that I would never wake up. I would be less than honest, if I didn’t say that I have had, at times, a thought late at night, as I take 30mg of Restoril…just a handful of these and it will all be over.

I know this post will likely make some readers uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t understand. Bruce, for God’s sake, you are typing this post. Surely this proves you are OK and that life is worth living. Maybe, but as I type this, my body throbs with pain. Don’t do it, you say? Doing or not doing changes the pain very little. There is only so much narcotic pain medication I can take and then I must just grit my teeth and bear it. Better to bear it writing than lying in bed or sitting like a lump of flesh in the recliner.

This is not a cry for help. I do not need an intervention. I am not in  the midst of a life threatening crisis. This is me being honest. This is me saying what many fellow sufferers wish they could say. Thinking about suicide is not a reflection on the level of our love for our family or our devotion to them. I love my family dearly. They are the only thing that keeps me from calling it a long, dark, day. I love them and I want to see them grow old. I want to see my grandchildren graduate from high school. I want to enjoy the thrill of great-grandchildren.

I want all of these things, and more, but I also want the pain and suffering to stop. I want one night of rest, one day that isn’t started with narcotic pain medications. I want the life that I lost a decade ago. I want to be able to walk, hike, and work. I want what I know I can never have.

I have talked to my counselor about these things many times. He does his best to help me through what he calls crisis (event-oriented) depression. He knows that if he can help me get through these times, life will be better on the other side. But, thoughts about ending my life because of the pain? He allows me the space to consider this, the final act of self-determination. He reminds me of how much I have to live for but he also sees what the pain is doing to me. He can read my face, my eyes.  He sees what few can or are willing to see.

Published: May 19, 2014 | Comments: 19

How Religion Obscures Seeing People as They Are

greg brown

On Saturday, Polly I and  will drive to SE Ohio to pay our respects to a man who was once a vital part of the church I pastored in Somerset. The family has asked me to conduct the funeral and I am delighted that they asked me to do so. (they asked for a non-religious service) It has been 20 years since I have seen this family face to face. In recent years, I have reconnected with some of the children via Facebook. It will be good to see them, the children now in their 30′s with children of their own.

As I ponder what to say on Saturday, I can’t help but think about the 11 years I spent as their pastor. They knew me when I was a fire-breathing Baptist fundamentalist preacher and school administrator. They also knew me when I was a fundamentalist Calvinistic Baptist. They remember my preaching, the rules, the standards.  They remember my commitment to the God and the Bible. I also hope they remember my goodness and kindness. While these things will certainly provide the backdrop for our reconnection on Saturday, they will not be the substance of what I will say at the service. Why? Because the past, with all its religious, Biblical trappings, obscure the man we will be honoring.

You see, he was a good man. He was a friend who would do anything for me, any time, day or night. When I needed help, he always made himself available. While he could be temperamental at times, most of the time he was a kind, compassionate man. But these traits were obscured and mattered little years ago. Instead of seeing the man, I tended to see the sin. Isn’t that what we were taught to do? Holiness and purity were the objective, without which no man shall see the Lord.

He and I were different in many ways. When it came to sin, I could always hide my sin better than he could. Over time, preachers get good at hiding their sin, their failures. After all, they are supposed to be a shining example of spiritual maturity and holiness. No one wants a preacher who is like them. They want a Moses, a Paul, or a Jesus, someone to inspire them and show them the way. So preacher’s lie, giving the appearance that they, if need be, could walk on water. Deep down they know, that like everyone else, if they walked on water they would drown. Strip away the clerical facade and what you find is a man no different from those who sit in the pew.

I remember the first time he came to church. He was wearing a shirt that said Zig-Zag. And no he didn’t roll his own cigarettes. And this is a perfect picture of the kind of man he was. He had little pretense, what you saw is what you got. So when he sinned he didn’t hide it well. I remember one Sunday afternoon he went to the movies with his wife. They saw Born on the Fourth of July. Now, this was a big sin at our church. No movies, especially  R-rated movies. I could tell that he was a little antsy at evening service but he said nothing about the movie. The next day at school one of his children mentioned that Mom and Dad had gone to see a movie. I asked them, WHAT movie? They confessed, with nary a thought that they had just got their Dad in trouble. Of course, the good pastor that I was, watching out for his soul, I called him and asked him to come to my office so we could talk. Nothing like getting called to the principal’s office, right?


Before he started coming to the church he had been an avid listener of rock and roll music. Well, at Somerset Baptist Church, we didn’t listen to THAT kind of music! One day he came to church all excited. He had found out that there was music called Christian rock. He had bought a cassette tape of a group by the name of Stryper. (he loved the song To Hell with the Devil)  I took one look at the pictures on the cassette box and I knew that Stryper was nothing more than a tool used by Satan to deceive  Christians. I told him it was a bad idea for him to listen to such worldly music. I think he was deeply discouraged by my “Godly”  opinion. He thought he had finally found something that was not only Christ honoring but also met his desire to listen to rock music. I, the arbiter of what was Christ honoring, knew better.

There were a lot of these sinful moments, and as I look back on it, I can see how discouraging it must have been for him. These things I called sin were not sin at all. But, because I thought they were, they kept me from seeing the man for who and what he really was. My religion, and I think all religion does this to some degree or the other, obscured this man’s humanity. Instead of seeing the man, I saw him through the lens of the Bible and my interpretation of it. My sin list, my dogma got in the way of me seeing this man as a flawed, frail good man. Like his preacher, he wasn’t perfect.

We spent a lot of non-religious time together, and it is from those times I will draw the stories I plan to share with his family. Great stories. Crazy stories. Funny stories. Stories that will testify of the kind of man he was. Yes, I could share the “other” stories too, but to what end? As I told Polly today, if we live long enough, we all will have moments that are less than stellar. We will have those times where we went the wrong way or made a bad choice. We hurt others and hurt ourselves. But these stories are not who we really are. They are the exceptions to the rule, the reminder that no one is perfect, including Jesus.

So on Saturday, I will mourn the loss of a man I once knew, but I will also rejoice with his family as we share stories about the good man that he was. This will be my first time doing a funeral where there are no religious expectations. No preaching, no need to get a word in for Jesus. No evangelizing or making everything about the church.  On this spring day, in the hills of SE Ohio, we will celebrate the life of a man who others loved dearly. While his body will be put into the ground, he will live on in the memories we have of him. In the end, this is all the living have.

Published: May 1, 2014 | Comments: 9

A Risky Life

taking risk

Life is full of risk. Every day, we do things that could hurt or kill us. There is no possible way to escape the risk that comes from being among the living.

If you eat food you could choke to death.

If you drive an automobile you could be in an accident and be seriously injured or killed.

If you climb a ladder you could fall off and break your neck.

If you go swimming you could drown.

If you have unprotected sex you could get an STD.

If you are at the wrong place at the wrong time you could be killed by a terrorist’s bomb.

If you ______________________ you could _________________________. This is the substance of life.

Race car drivers drive around race tracks at breathtaking speeds, hoping that they survive. Most of the time they do, but every so often a Dale Earnhardt hits a retaining wall and dies. He knew the risk, he chose to drive a race car anyway.

Football players  play a violent sport that often results in injury or death. Every football player knows the risk, yet chooses to play anyway.

As parents, we want to protect our children from injury, harm, or death. But, we also know, for their sake, they need to learn to assess risk. They need to learn how to judge a circumstance and act appropriately. They need to know that everything they do in life has the potential to harm, injure, or kill them.

One of the riskiest things we do in life is go to the doctor. While doctors heal people, they also harm, maim, and kill people. Doctors make mistakes. Every drug, test, or surgery has a relative risk.  Yes, only 1 out of a 1,000 people die from _________________ procedure, but you or I could be that 1 in a 1,000.  It is not always someone else that dies, gets an infection, or has a negative outcome.

The careless person does not assess risk. They act on a whim without thinking of the consequences. The Bible admonishes us to count the cost, to consider the outcome of our choices. While this should not paralyze us, it should cause us to pause for a moment before we launch into something that could harm or kills us.  Countless people die every year because they failed to assess risk. Instead of thinking or investigating before doing something, they just ran forward with reckless abandon hoping everything turned out OK. Sadly, everything turning out OK emboldens them and they think they can continue to live their life in this manner. They can…until it kills them.

Sometimes, we wrongly put our trust in others. We think, Surely, my doctor wouldn’t advise me to have this surgery if it wasn’t safe. Safe is relative and nothing in this life is 100% risk free. Careless people ignore the statistics, thinking that they don’t apply to them. They do, and some day it won’t always be someone else facing a negative outcome.

There is no such thing as a safe life. The best we can do is carefully consider our options before doing something. And even then, sometimes the outcome is still negative. Sometimes, no matter how well we assess the risk and prepare ahead of time, bad things still happen to us. Somewhere, some day, a small chunk of meteorite will fall and plunk someone in the head and they will die. Their bizarre death will be featured on 1,000 Ways to Die and people will laugh, saying to themselves, talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I get older, I am more adverse to risk. I suspect that experience has taught me that life can be dangerous and there are countless ways die. Years ago, I went to New Orleans to preach on the streets of Central City. My mother-in-law begged me not to go, fearing that I would be killed and leave her daughter a widow with three children. I laughed off her concern and told her that I could just as easily trip and fall off their porch and break my neck. I was young, fearless, invincible, and full of life. Would I preach on the streets of New Orleans today? Not a chance.

When Polly and I were first married, we drove the best car $200 could buy. Rolling pieces of junk, these cars were, yet we drove them all over the place. Bald tires, loose front end parts, cars sure to fail a safety inspection. So foolish, yet we luckily survived. Would I drive cars like this now? Not a chance.

Sometimes older people like myself laugh at the safety precautions people take today. Ride a bike? Wear a helmet!  Car seats! Seat belts! The government is now requiring automakers to put backup cameras in every car. How did we survive without all these things keeping us safe? We like to think these things are unnecessary, but perhaps the real reason we survived is because we were lucky. We seem to forget the countless kids that suffered brain damage from hitting their head on the pavement after  falling off their bike or were killed after being ejected from a car.

It is impossible to idiot proof the world. There will always be those who give no regard to safety or the outcome of what they plan to do. We can only hope that their stupidity doesn’t maim or kill us.  They will have to bear the consequences of their foolishness, and if it kills them I guess they won’t do that again!

How about you? How do you assess risk? Do you find yourself being more risk-adverse as you get older? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Published: April 21, 2014 | Comments: 7