By Gregory J. Rummo
As a then 56-year old, I was given pause for thought when 56-year old Apple CEO Steve Jobs died from pancreatic cancer. And more recently, on my 57th birthday, when 57-year old Hall of Famer and former New York Mets catcher Gary Carter died from brain cancer.
It is often said when people die at an age we deem too young that they have been taken from us “before their time.” What we should mean when we say this is that due to circumstances beyond the control of the individual; a fatal car accident or in the case of Steve Jobs and Gary Carter, a terminal disease, the normal lifespan of a person has been tragically cut short.
Occurring in between the deaths of these two luminaries was the death of pop singer Whitney Houston.
All three deaths were tragic, but for different reasons.
Fox News Bill O’Reilly made the sharp distinction when he told NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer, “You don’t have free will when you have lung cancer. You do have free will when you’re a crack addict.”
We don’t get to choose our parents or the circumstances into which we are born. Life is a gift from God. But at some point we do take on the decision-making process that begins a life-long series of cause and effect events for which we bear the ultimate responsibility.
God likens these decisions to sowing and reaping and the Bible speaks about them in sobering terms: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
I am sure most of us can think of a person, perhaps even a member of our own family, who was taken at a young age, “before his or her time,” even if God calls death an “appointment.”
And while I would like to think that by taking care of myself; by living a healthy lifestyle that includes avoiding harmful substances, eating right and exercising, I can push that “appointment” on the Good Lord’s smartphone farther out into the future.
But if that’s true, what of those who practice systematic, self-destructive behavior? Do they hasten their appointment with the Grim Reaper?
Whitney Houston is just the latest in a long list of lives cut short through a slower yet just as deadly game of Russian roulette.
The website “Hollywood Gossip to Go” reports the grim statistics. “We have lost so many celebrities in the past due to drug abuse including Elvis Presley, Brad Renfro, Anna Nicole Smith, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. But it seems especially true in recent years.
Michael Jackson was the King of Pop who died on June 25th, 2009 at the age of 50. It was initially reported that he died of cardiac arrest but toxicology reports revealed numerous in his system at the time of his death including Propofol (anesthetic), Xanax (anxiety), Dilaudid (painkiller), Valium (anxiety), Ambien (sleep), Fentanyl and Vicodin (painkiller).”
These were privileged people; having everything in life we’re all led to believe are the fruits of success; wealth, fame and influence. Yet, somewhere, for whatever reason, they made poor decisions—tragic decisions—setting in motion a series of cause and effect events.
They planted bad seed and when it was time for the harvest, perhaps a harvest too early, the Grim Reaper of their own doing came calling.