On not dying youngish

March 5, 2019

Somewhere sometime in my twenties I wrote that my motto was, “Live fast die young, and leave a pretty corpse.” It seemed cool at the time. When your heroes are dropping off at 27, the romantic exit seems, well, romantic.  Now, not so much. Hitting 90 seems both horrific and preferable.


This week’s deaths of Luke Perry (3 years younger than me, from a stroke) and Let’s Active drummer Sara Romweber (same age as me, from brain cancer) is a reminder that we continue to shed our peers at a rate that only accelerates. A large percentage of the Gen X elders that I inhabited the world with when I was twenty are gone. My aging icons will leave more rapidly. I’m ready of Bob Dylan and the rest of the lions of my youth to slip from this mortal coil. But so will those younger than me. Kids in tornadoes. Generation Z teens texting while driving, running over millennials talking on their iPhones. Then us.

George Harrison once said that death is like getting out of one car and getting into another. That’s sweet. I had a student who once asked the class what do people remember from before they were born. Silence. “That’s what death is like,” she said. Who knows? Nobody. That includes people who write hokey books about dying on the operating table and coming back to life. People buy that shit up hoping for proof that they well never cease to exist.

Sociologists will tell you that as people get old, they get more religious. I had a professor at Emory, Martin Levin, who called it the “nearer my God to thee” thesis. My father recently told me he’s just coasting into heaven. I hope so, Dad. It sounds so much nicer than just being unplugged by time. All those old friends waiting for you.


Me, I know that I don’t know. In all likelihood, this is it. No pearly gates, no Casper the Ghost, no singing with Aretha or jamming with Hendrix. (Poor dead Hendrix.) And that’s OK. That means heaven is right here. In the excised Gospel of Thomas, one of the gnostic texts that was removed from the New Testament by the patriarchal church, hipster Jesus told his peeps that the kingdom of heaven is not in the sky somewhere. “Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.” I can dig that. Heaven is in a living room in Portland. Awesome, because I’m already there.

The bottom line is to make the most of the time while you are here. Make the place you are in full of love and light, not anger and darkness. And do it for as long as you can, because there might not be a tunnel to a “better place.” Stay healthy, don’t smoke, get check ups, get off the couch, be kind, and keep the memory of those who have past alive in your minds.

One of my favorite poems is by Liverpool poet Roger McGough, enticed “Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death.”

Let me die a youngman’s death

not a clean and inbetween

the sheets holywater death

not a famous-last-words

peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73

and in constant good tumour

may I be mown down at dawn

by a bright red sports car

on my way home

from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91

with silver hair

and sitting in a barber’s chair

may rival gangsters

with hamfisted tommyguns burst in

and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104

and banned from the Cavern

may my mistress

catching me in bed with her daughter

and fearing for her son

cut me up into little pieces

and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death

not a free from sin tiptoe in

candle wax and waning death

not a curtains drawn by angels borne

‘what a nice way to go’ death 

Sounds like heaven to me.



4 thoughts on “On not dying youngish

  1. no heaven, no hell. just here and now. love the poem. want to go in my bed. no flowers. flowers are the living. i am 80 , death getting closer. just had a stroke . all but speech good. pauses and make one think, not afraid. just no drooling in a rehab, thank you very much. be well, you have much more life to live must take care of that darling little girl.


  2. Oh how I’ve longed for you to write about something like this. Before I gave my life over to Christ, I had the same mentality as you. Now, I see things differently. “Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.” That comes from the Gospel Luke 17:21. There, is doesn’t say anything about the kingdom being with in you and outside. It does however say, nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” But what that section is talking about is how the church will be taken from the earth before God pours out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world.

    Stephen Hawking said many times there is no heaven and there is no hell. If that’s to be the case, then lets start with with our timeline. B.C. (before Christ), A.D. (Anno Domini/year of our Lord). Jesus changed the entire timetable with His humble birth.

    Israel: The prophet Isaiah wrote nearly 2,700 years ago, that Israel would become a nation once again. A nation that was defeated, collapsed, and the language was lost was prophesied in Isaiah 66:8 “Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Will a land be brought to birth in one day? Or will a nation be born all at once? Yet, as soon as Zion went into labor, she gave birth to her sons.” That was fulfilled on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a nation once again. Ezekiel 36:8-10 “But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.”

    Life here on earth is but a vapor. Sure, this life is difficult, it’s challenging, full of temptations, evil/wicked, sorrow and pain. That’s where God sent His only Son to save us from hell. He came to deliver us from sin. I was a lost person who was deeply caught up in the chains of pornography and lust of the flesh. Because of salvation, I’m saved and delivered from it. God broke those chains.

    Coming to Christ, I don’t see white, black, brown, or whatever. When I see people, I don’t see them by how they look. Instead, I show try to show them love. Jesus said, “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). There’s MANY more scripture about how we are to be towards one another. When I interact with people, I want them to see and know that my words are Christ loving words.

    Salvation is easy. Romans 10:9-13 spells it out directly, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

    I want you to know Randy that I pray all the time for you. You can do awesome things for the Lord. I pray that you not make your heaven here on earth, but I pray you want to live forever and freely with the true Creator of heaven and earth. If you or anybody else who reads this and wants to talk about salvation, you are welcomed to email me directly at bmwilliams21706@gmail.com. I pray for everyone’s salvation.


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