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Steve Irwin's Tragic Death: A Reminder of How Short Life Is

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in Saworship.com. I liked Steve Irwin a lot and was very upset and depressed at his untimely death. Lord willing something good can come out of this entry.

Death happens all the time, often when completely unexpected. By the time you finish reading this column, several thousand people across our planet will have died. Sometimes they are as anonymous as the one-time obituaries that appear in a small-town weekly newspaper. Sometimes, such as in the case of former President Ronald Reagan, they warrant a state funeral and weeks of worldwide coverage.

When the famous of world die, they make the evening newscast. Some people, like The Beverly Hillbillies star Buddy Ebsen, live into their nineties. We’ve shaken our heads, though, as actors like River Phoenix, Bruce Lee and John Belushi and musicians like Aaliyah, Jim Croce and Rich Mullins die tragically young. I can still remember University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias dying of a drug overdose just days after being taken by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft. The deaths of the die young are tragic and completely unexpected.

On September 4, Australian conservationist and celebrity Steve Irwin died. Irwin, also known as the “Crocodile Hunter” and for his catch phrase “Crikey!”, was tragically killed while filming a documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest. He was swimming near a stingray in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when the stingray’s poisonous tail barb pierced Irwin’s heart. Irwin was able to remove the barb but, unfortunately, nothing could be done to save his life. Marine biologists say that these stingrays normally are very placid creatures; it is extremely rare for them to attack or kill humans.

The death of Irwin, at least for me, leaves a gaping hole in the world. He was only 44 and left behind a wife and two children. I enjoyed watching his show as he constantly stayed one step ahead of the dangers of snapping crocodiles while talking to the camera. For me, Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter show was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on a very high dose of espresso. Some might’ve thought he was crazy-especially the time he held his infant son while feeding a crocodile-but Irwin’s energetic, passionate ways did much to educate people about animal conservation. You could also tell that not only was he very excited about what he did, but he also had a deep concern for it. Perhaps that deep concern is what fueled his excitement.

I have no idea what Irwin’s spiritual beliefs were. Whether or not Irwin was a Christian, his unexpected death teaches us a lot about the importance of life and how brief it can be. Every minute could be our last minute on earth, as death can happen through many methods: natural causes, unforeseen accident or, heaven forbid, a homicide.

If you’re a Christian, it’s a wake-up call to keep busy with the things of God. Each day it is important to have devotions, be in prayer and live a life that is above reproach. Of course, when the opportunities come to share your faith, it is important to do that. We never know as Christians when we will be spending our last minute on earth-whether because of death or because of the rapture. I can imagine fewer things more embarrassing than for our lives to be taken or our bodies raptured up to heaven, and we’re in the middle of doing something selfish, wasteful or embarrassing.

And if you’re not a Christian, an unexpected death is all the more reason for you to examine yourself and act upon the claims of Christ. Now is the time to examine the plan of salvation and make a decision about it. Now is the time to reconcile yourself with God by accepting His Son Jesus as your Personal Savior. It may seem like you still have weeks, months, years or even decades to make a final decision, but a simple perusal through a newspaper’s obituary pages will tell you that that’s not true. Death can come at any time. Your age, social status and bank account balance are all completely irrelevant. It is just as common for a young child to meet death as it is for an octogenarian who has seen it all and done it all. It is also just as common for death to come to someone in the middle of a hectic life of raising kids, paying bills, completing work projects and tackling a honey-do list on the weekends. If you die without making a decision to receive Jesus as your personal savior, then it will be eternally too late for you.

Steve Irwin’s death, as tragic and saddening as it is, should serve to remind all of us of just how short life truly is. None of us knows when we will die, so it’s important to focus ourselves on living for God instead of ourselves.

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