Don’t Wake Up Dead

Inside of every tragedy, there’s always a little comedy. Last week, in the wake of the sad news about Michael Jackson’s untimely death, his former attorney, Brian Oxman, appeared on Fox & Friends. He made some startling claims about Michael’s prescription drug use.

picture of a flower on a grave

Then he said, “I warned everyone that I could. I said to family members that one day, that Michael Jackson was going to wake up dead.”Yogi Berra could not have said it better—or worse. No one “wakes up dead,” of course. That’s the whole point. If you are dead, you are dead. You can’t wake up.

The other point Mr. Oxman seemingly doesn’t understand is that no one lives forever. I don’t care if you are the King of Pop or are living in obscurity in a remote village. It’s only a matter of time. Everyone is going to die. No one gets out alive.

The only question is whether or not you have come to terms with it and are willing to live your life on-purpose nowbefore that day comes.

In our modern culture, we do everything we can to avoid thinking about death. We glorify youth—and youthfulness—and delude ourselves into thinking we are immortal.

Unfortunately, this robs us of the insights that come from reflecting on the inevitability of death. Not any death, mind you, but your own death. You are not going to live forever. Death will come. Sooner that you would like.

But what are you doing about it now? Obviously, one thing to sort out is what you believe about the afterlife and where you will spend eternity. That topic involves more than I want to cover in this post.

Another important question, not unrelated to the first, is how will you be remembered?

  • By your parents
  • By your spouse
  • By your children
  • By your friends
  • By your co-workers
  • By the poor you encounter

These people will indeed remember you. What will be your legacy? The time to build it is now, while you still can.

You can start by creating a life plan. It’s a way to be intentional. Before you “wake up dead.”

Question: How do you want to be remembered? By those closest to you?
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  • Daniel Decker

    Amazes me how some think by ignoring or trying to suppress death that they can beat it. Sure, we can make healthy choices that may enable us to live a bit longer but when it's out time, it's our time. The unexpected death of MJ and Billy Mays are just two prime examples. Makes me think of that saying… "Yesterday's the past and tomorrow's the future. Today is a gift – which is why they call it the present."

  • Eva Ulian

    Sometimes I think one spends the first 40 years of life learning how to live and therefore the second part is the most enjoyable but when you know your candle of life is ebbing away and though you believe in another life after this one, you wonder what if then “I am no more”. After my mother came back from coma I asked her what she remembered and she gave me a huge smile and said “Immense peace.” So if she could remember the state she found herself, she was there- living. Probably the state we find ourselves after our earthly sojourn basically depends on the state we find ourselves while still in the material world. Is that why some people say we make our heaven or hell on earth?

  • KarlaAkins

    I heard him say that, too, and I laughed. It always amazes me that a lot of people don't think about eternity. For some reason, it's something I've always thought about. Perhaps it's because I lost people I loved when I was young. I don't know. But I do wish people could pause and consider where they're headed.

    I have always been concerned about my legacy. That doesn't mean I have it all licked and figured out. But it's something that is a big part of my daily motivation.

  • MartyBoardman

    Few people take the time to sit down and think about what they really want in life, personally or professionally. If you want to make someone really uncomfortable pull them aside to a quiet place, ask them what they really want in life, and then watch them squirm. Someone I respect and admire did this to me a few years back and it changed my life.

    Too many live their life like a cork in the ocean, subject to the next gentle breeze or giant wave. When someone they know or read about accomplishes something great they chalk it up to luck. But, as Earl Nightingale once said, “luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.”

  • Michelle Shocklee

    Not to make light of your topic or MJ's death or anything…but I use the phrase "wake up dead" a lot! I have two teenage boys and I can't tell you how many times morning has arrived only to find that they've left a door unlocked or even the garage door up! I'll tell them, "Lock the doors! We don't want to wake up dead!" They chuckle every time.

    But your post has truths everyone needs to remember. None of us will live forever (except Enoch, from Gen. 5, whom I blogged about a few days ago). I talk very openly about death with my sons. My death. My husband's death. Their deaths. It's not a subject anyone–especially believers in Jesus Christ–should avoid! Death is not the end for those of us who call Jesus Lord! It's truly just the beginning! Sadly, there are too many people alive today who ignore Jesus.

  • Brandon Marler

    I just finished reading "The Noticer" on vacation. What a great book; well written; and a perfect reminder of the importance of 'life' and why we should not waste it!! Go get it today and read it…it will definitely bring some "perspective" in these troubled times.

  • MarkWGaither

    The expression, "wake up dead," always makes me laugh. It reminds me of the sardonic view of life and death held by my depression-era relatives in rural North Carolina. To "wake up dead" is to die a foolish death.

    The saying usually accompanied a warning, such as, "Don't ____ or you'll wake up dead!" It's meant to keep another from death AND the added insult of waking up in the next life to the realization that he or she did something fatally stupid.

    I may be reading too much into Brian Oxman's statement, but it appears he didn't want Michael to open his eyes in the hereafter, only to say, "Aw, man! That's not how I wanted to go out!" In which case, Michael (Hyatt), your essay is right on target. We cannot control the timing of death or avoid its inevitability. But let us do what we can to avoid dying foolishly or in vain.

  • Timothy Fish

    I think more people are thinking about the afterlife than we might think. Online, I get field questions all the time from people wanting to know how they can be sure they are saved. I point them to… .

    How do I want to be remembered? I want to live up to my name. If someone stands before a gathering of people and delivers a summary of my life, whether it is great crowd or a small gathering, the greatest thing he could possibly say is, "He honored God."

  • patalexander

    I am frustrated by the news media's, as usual, treatment of the death of famous people. What is accomplished by speculating about the cause of death, the will, the custody of the children, and on, and on, and on? It is like overnight, no one else is important in the world and other world events just go away. We were hearing so much about Iran and for days nothing to speak of. As others have said, death is a part of life. It is tragic when someone dies too early, but it happens every day according to the obituaries in my newspaper and there is no mention of these wonderful souls in the news. Thanks for another of your insightful posts.

  • Bill

    The phrase "wake up dead" is a common expression in African-American churches in the south, most often in the call to worship or in prayers, where we thank God we didn't wake up dead this morning.

  • JanMM

    On a light note, just like the "wake up dead" phrase, I many times, jokingly, have told my husband, "If you die before me, I'm going to kill you!" :D

    • MarkWGaither

      That's hilarious! Reminds me of the time my mother fretted over my teenage brother's failure to come home one night. "If I find out he's alright, I'm gonna kill him!"

  • patriciazell

    What about Christ's return to this earth? The Bible talks about immortality (deathlessness)–I Corinthians 15 talks about the instanteous change in those who are alive and the resurrection of believers who have died when Christ returns. Listen to Isaiah 25:6-8:

    And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things…he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people…HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH IN VICTORY; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces…

    And, Revelation 21:4: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be NO MORE DEATH, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

    Jesus came that we might have the life that is more abundant than the death evil brought into this world. Romans 2:7 tells us we should seek immortality. If there's any chance that I could be part of the generation that experiences death being swallowed up in victory, then I'm going to do all I can to make it happen.

  • Forrest Long

    For some reason in our post-modern culture, we haven't figured out how to deal with death- we joke about it, euphamize it, repackage it, all with the hope that it will lose some of its darkness and mystery. But the only way to come to terms with it is through Jesus Christ. The reality of His resurrection is the only reality that can give us hope. How people need to hear!

    • patriciazell

      And, Christ is not dead–he's alive. As Romans 8:11 says, that if the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, he will quicken (bring to life) our mortal bodies. The time is coming when we will put on immortality as Christ returns and death is defeated. If the Bible is reality, then God will wipe away the tears from all faces (Isaiah 25:6-8) and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

  • Bryce

    Your 'creating a life plan' post is what brought me to your site originally. It was a great post and you inspired me to write my own plan. The process has made me a lot more mindful of how I interact with people and what legacy I will leave behind. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Samantha


    I love this insight- so wise and true. I have to say, your title really caught my eye in my Feedblitz. These similar thoughts ran through my mind on the day Michael died so I too blogged about death (the dash between 1958-2009). The post is here if you want to check it out:

    Thanks for writing,


  • deb

    Sadly, I know many "beloveds" who have woken up dead in the last five years because they thought they could do "whatever" they wanted to do to their "immortal" bodies… And it's true we squirrel death away in this USA society, wherein other countries it's up front and personal everyday. The rise of the mortuary business (keep death away) is another article. I can honestly say that what the Lord thinks weighs on me more than anyone else. Not withstanding we should live a Christ like life… It's tough. It's so much easier to be cranky.

  • @pursuingyahweh


    Last Wednesday, I assisted in officiating a memorial service for a great lady in our church, Mrs. Ina. In our church's tradition, guests a memorial services are given an opportunity to share memories of the deceased.

    I watched in amazement last week as Mrs. Ina's UPS Delivery man stood and gave testimony to her grace, love, and hospitality.

    This post is a great reminder of simple, yet priceless life goals. Thanks for sharing.


  • Dave

    " * By your parents
    * By your spouse
    * By your children
    * By your friends
    * By your co-workers
    * By the poor you encounter
    Someday, those people will also die, and their memories of you will die with them. Who remembers your great-great-great-great-grandfather anymore? Who visits his grave? I think it's more important to focus on either 1. enjoying life, or 2. making a tangible and specific positive impact on the world, the effects of which will outlive you and everyone you know. (not an easy task, but achievable if it is important to you).