How Did You Die? - A Life-Changing Poem for Troublesome Times

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Video from Red Frost Motivation

Read by Shane Morris - Full Poem:

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way With a resolute heart and cheerful? Or hide your face from the light of day With a craven soul and fearful? Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce, Or a trouble is what you make it, And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts, But only how did you take it? You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that! Come up with a smiling face. It's nothing against you to fall down flat, But to lie there-that's disgrace. The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce Be proud of your blackened eye! It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts; It's how did you fight-and why? And though you be done to the death, what then? If you battled the best you could, If you played your part in the world of men, Why, the Critic will call it good. Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce, And whether he's slow or spry, It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts, But only how did you die? - Edmund Vance Cooke

We find in Cooke's poem the wisdom and the courage to deal with ordeals and troubles of life in a more ideal manner.

How did we tackle the trouble that came. Were we determined and positive when it came; or did we react fearfully?

He tells us that our troubles becomes big or small according to our attitude. It is not as important whether the trouble hurt you or not; what matters is how you handled the trouble.

He tells us when we fall down to get up. Falling is normal, but to continue to lie there is disgraceful.

Cooke further explains the wisdom of a life lived teaches us that the harder we are thrown down by troubles, the higher we bounce back.  

Suffering and adversity is a part of our fallen lives. God often uses it to make us stronger or develop us in certain ways apart from our own desires.

Death comes to all; it may come suddenly or it may come quietly; our dying does not matter; what matters is how we died, did we die well or badly?  

This poem reminds us of Ecclesiastes and how our life is a vapor. Our lives are brief. The Hebrew word hebel, is often rendered “vanity in the text,” but doesn’t mean pointless or futile as many believe. Instead, the preacher of Ecclesiastes plays on the word’s basic sense of vapor or breath. Everything in life is not meaningless, but fleeting, evanescent, ungraspable like a vapor. Want an example? Wait for a cold day, open your mouth wide, and breathe out the warm air and then try to grab the cloud in your hands. That, proclaims the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, holds for all of this life’s joys. Almost everything in our lives flickers and then vanishes. Even the most seemingly solid fixtures of our lives can disappear in less time than it takes to blink. And one day death will take from us, and take us from, whatever joys we have left. Yet God is faithful, sovereign and eternal, God is not a vapor!

The message of Ecclesiastes isn’t that our earthly joys are worthless, but that they are not ultimate. As a maturing Christian we must learn to live in light of the certain tragedy of our death. When you stop treating this life as your source of all satisfaction, you’ll find it more fulfilling. Only someone who knows how to weep will really know what it means to laugh. That’s the message of Ecclesiastes. We need to be a person who realizes that living a good life means preparing to die a good death.

Want to live well, prepare to die well!

Edmund Vance Cooke ( born June 5th 1866), in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada.

His first job was in a Sewing Machine Factory which he eventually left in 1893 to earn a living as a poet, writer, and public speaker . He published his first book of poems, A Patch of Pansies in 1894 followed by 15 more books of poetry and several books for children. He married Lilith Castleberry in 1898 and they had five children. Cooke then went on to become a broadcaster on station, WWJ in Detroit broadcasting his poems live to thousands. Cooke died in Cleveland, Ohio on December 18th 1932.

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