The Union Recorder

July 31, 2013

HODGES: My time to die

Dr. Jay Hodges
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — I just watched a video posted on Facebook titled “When It’s Not Your Turn to Die.” It showed a stunt airplane at an air show which seemed to have lost a wing in a steep climb, and it began to spiral down to the ground out of control. The pilot somehow managed to get the airplane stopped spinning, but it was flying on its side only a few feet off the ground. Then the pilot made the plane flip up and landed it safely. I breathed a sigh of relief as he climbed out of the cockpit.

Then I began to read that the whole thing was a fake. I don’t know how they managed to make it seem like it was real, but apparently no one was in danger.

What the clip did, though, was to make me start thinking about “your time to die.” Someone asked me years ago, “If it is not God’s will for you to die, and you step in front of a speeding train, will you die?” I was young then, and I had not even begun to think about such things. My answer was, “Anyone who steps in front of a speeding train is going to die whether it is God’s will or not.”

I still believe that. But that pushes me to have to think about God setting a time for us to die, and when that time comes, we die. I know too many young people who have died early, and I think it is just wrong to say, “Well, it was God’s will,” or “It was just their time to die.”

What kind of God would appoint a time to die for a kid who was just beginning to enjoy life? What kind of God would say to a child, “OK, it’s your turn to die.” I just don’t believe I could love such a God. At the same time, why does God let someone who has lived a long, productive and effective life linger with a terrible illness long after they have lost what function they have? A friend of mine who has been a wonderful church leader and preacher today hardly knows his own family, yet he lingers day after day in a fog of confusion. Why is that?

I don’t have answers to those questions, and if I did, I would write a book and make a lot of money! There are some things we are not going to understand.

What I think I want to say is that I do not believe God has determined at our birth the day of our death. I believe God wants us all to live a long and happy life, enjoying the beauty of the world around us and the people who make our lives worthwhile. I believe God wants us to live free of disease and anxiety and die peacefully in our sleep when we are ready.

But we live in an imperfect world. We are subject to disease and tragedy. Some of us cannot live a happy life no matter what, and some of us are going to die way too early from some terrible accident. For those who die too young, God will weep with us and wish we could have known all that was in store for us. I have an idea God has some way of recompense for that as well.

I don’t worry about “my time to die.” I worry more about whether I am making the best use of each day I am given to live fully. I want to be able to enjoy the singing of the birds, the beauty of the trees and flowers; I want to be able to eat delicious food and know the love of my family and friends. When I am given such a day, I thank God for it and hope for another.

When death comes, I will be happy that I have been given the life I have been given, and I pray that God will say, “You did well. Enter my home and enjoy this place as well.”

Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at