With the announcement Sunday, February 2, 2014 of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death by drug overdose, we are confronted with another famous person who dies prematurely. A poem comes to mind by my friend Bob Cleveland, a poem that beautifully asks a few important questions. Bob wrote the poem five years ago after the death of Chris Farley and while contemplating the deaths of people like Chris, John Belushi and River Phoenix. The words Bob used in 2009 are as appropriate today as they were then.
How many more will have to die
Before the Lord tells you and I
In words we can’t misunderstand
That we all live only by His hand
And furthermore we’re in a war
With Alcohol … and Drugs .. and more
That overwhelms our spirits so
And leads us to that land of woe
Where the famous die and friends are grieving
For talented and loved ones leaving
This world and going who-knows-where
With pain that’s more than they can bear
God does not trifle, as we have seen
It’s not that He is ever mean…
But rest assured that He is just
And those who do not in Him trust
And give Him sway, in truth and fact
Live only by His gracious act
Of mercy undeserved and free
That He can stop whenever He
Decides that it is fit and meet
To sweep abusers off their feet…
As Chris and John and River know...
To where they never thought they’d go.
So time has come: don’t take for granted
That seeds by which your deeds you’ve planted
Won’t sprout and grow and put to sleep
The life you thought you’d always keep,
And too late come to see the facts
That you and others by your acts
Have drawn the curtain to a close
Much sooner than you might suppose.
How many more will have to die?
Not mine to say, but I know that I
Will not be one of those who do…
The question is … will one be you?