‘How Did You Die?’ by Edmund Vance Cooke

Why do I have to be born like this? Why can’t I get anything without trouble? Why? Just why? Let’s be true, we have always tried to blame something other than ourselves when we fail. Not everyone is born with silver spoons in their mouths and we shouldn’t excuse ourselves from challenging ourselves to great heights. Maybe we cannot determine our birth, but we can always determine how we are going to live.

Edmund Vance Cooke’s ‘How Did You Die?’ is a motivational poem telling us to go head-on with our challenges in life. Life throws challenges at everyone of us. And when it does, how we react to it is all that matters. Are we going to accept the challenges with a cheerful mindset and strong heart? Or are we going to cower and hide from the outer world? The decision is ours. Where there are challenges, there are troubles. But how we perceive these troubles is up to us. It is our mindset which decides if our troubles are a ton or an ounce. When we challenge ourselves, we are not always going to win. We may fall many times. So, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall, but how many times we pull ourselves up.

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?

So, what if we fall and get hurt. It isn’t embarrassing. If we had thought so as a child, we wouldn’t be here walking. What is really embarrassing is when we don’t get up after falling down and give up without even seeing the end. All we have to do is put on a smile and get up. A ball bounces up as hard as it hits the floor. Hence, we should be proud of our failures. It doesn’t matter if we fail as long as we have fought well. We should try our best so that we don’t regret it even when we fail. 

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?

If we had fought well and had done our best in whatever role we are given in this mortal world, then the Critic will conclude that we did well. The Critic who will judge us is not the society or family or acquaintances but the Creator, the supreme power. Death comes to everyone. Death doesn’t look at our age, gender, status or power. It treats everyone equally and may come to anyone at any time. Whether we die early or late, whether we die in a moment or experience a slow death, it isn’t our death that matters but how we died. 

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?

We can equalize the phrase ‘how did you die’ to how we lived. Life is full of choices and we may regret some. But we have to make sure that we turn such regrets into life lessons. Maybe we will die today or tomorrow, but would death matter if we live well?