A Life That Ended Too Soon…At 116 Years

December 10, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Besse Cooper

Besse Cooper (Photo: David Goldman, AP)

Last Tuesday afternoon, Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia passed away peacefully.  She was 116 years of age.  She was also the world’s oldest woman.[1]

I was doing the math in my head.  And though I don’t know her birthday so my I may be a year off on some of my calculations, I’m still pretty close.  Besse Cooper was born in 1896.  This means when the Titanic sank, she was sixteen.  When the United States entered World War I, she was twenty-one.  When the stock market crashed the Great Depression hit, she was thirty-three.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, she was forty-five.  When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, she was comfortably settled into retirement at sixty-seven.  When Apollo 11 landed, she was seventy-three.  And when 9/11 rocked our nation, she had passed the century mark at one hundred and five.

As I thought back over all the events to which this woman had been witness, even if only from afar, I stood in awe.  A lot of history happens in 116 years!  And yet, even a life as long and robust and Mrs. Cooper’s is hardly a hairbreadth long in the eyes of the God who gives it.  The Psalmist puts it bluntly:  “Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow” (Psalm 144:4).  On the stage of history as a whole, 116 years occupies nary a dark corner.

Though the biblical writers may look at life as fleeting, they nevertheless do not resign themselves fatalistically to its end.  Instead, they kick mightily against the truncated span of life.  The prophet Isaiah notes that a life that lasts a mere century – or perhaps a little more – has not lasted nearly long enough!  He yearns for a world where “he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth” (Isaiah 65:20).  Even one hundred years is not enough for Isaiah.  He wants more.

Finally, the problem the biblical writers have has nothing to do with when life comes to end, but with that life comes to end.  A life that ends – be that at ten days, ten months, ten years, or ten years times ten years – is a life that ends too soon.  And indeed, this is true.  For God, when He gave us life, intended life to be a gift we keep.  He intended life to be a gift that lasts.

Sin, of course, had other plans.  But this is why Christ came on a mission – to recapture and raise, by His resurrection, people who die way too soon.  To recapture and raise, by His resurrection, people who die at all.  Like Besse Cooper.  May she rest in peace.  But better yet, may she wake at the telos’s trumpet.


[1] Associated Press, “Woman, 116, listed as ‘world’s oldest’ dies in Ga.,” USA Today (12.5.2012).

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