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When Young People Die

Guest Post: Holly Paulette (@hchap220)

I remember running on a treadmill at the gym last year. I was hitting my groove a few miles in with a steady pace. The perfect workout playlist landed on its best song, but the electricity suddenly went out. My stride was immediately stopped as I lurched toward the front of the treadmill. The music kept playing, my adrenaline was still rushing, but my run was done.

It’s like a sentence that’s halted by an unforeseen period mid-word.

Like a life that should absolutely keep going but is just simply over.

I’ve been to more funerals of people under the age of 30 than I ever want to sit and count. I just sat here and started to try, but it was futile and painful and, to be honest, I was terrified I’d forget one.

It always starts out with a lone phone call or text. “Did you hear about so and so?” Instinctively, I tell myself that the rumors are wrong and that so and so is fine. Maybe it’s just a really bad injury. Maybe the doctors were wrong. Maybe the police identified the wrong guy.

But always, I am wrong. It happened again on Wednesday morning when we found out that one of the most boisterous, caring, hilarious, and genuine men I know was killed senselessly.

“A career cut short.” “Taken before his time.” “A life ending too soon.”

These phrases—and more like them—have been stated over and over regarding the loss of these young people. My friend, 27, and his coworker, 24, were, in the world’s standards, absolutely too young to die.

But as we hopelessly grapple with what feels like an unjust call home from the Lord, truth tells us otherwise. When do we hit the mark where we are at just the right age to leave this world? Who is “too young to die”? And, most importantly, who are we to set the standards?

The haunting reality is that “his time” was now. Nothing was cut short, nothing ended too soon, and not a second more was planned for my precious friend. In the Lord’s timing, Wednesday, August 26 was the day he was to be called home. While this never makes coping with death easy, it reminds us that, as a nightmare took place that fateful morning and as we gasped in horror, God wasn’t surprised.

Though we say we trust and we console others with vain promises that everything will be okay, it’s easy to blame God and call Him apathetic to the deep mourning of our souls. He’s anything but that, as we see Him weep at the loss of his friend Lazarus in the Scriptures, but His clock of eternity looks vastly different than the clock of this world.

The book of James says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

If we trust that God is sovereign, we trust that the One who knows what tomorrow will bring sketched out all our tomorrows from day one. My friend’s final “tomorrow” meant a grand entrance to heaven and an angelic celebration at the gates. We grieve because we imagine an unfulfilled future, but in faith, we can boast that he’s undoubtedly more fulfilled than he’s ever been, completely and perfectly satisfied in the presence of his King.

While we mourn on earth, solace can be found in the unquestionable knowledge of a plan far greater than what our small minds could fathom. Justice against this tragedy is our righteous cry, but it shouldn’t question the eternal timeline of God.

The reality hurts to grasp, but when young people die, never were they to grow old. Though this does not and should not heal the wounds and despair, it does remind us of the Savior who is in control in the midst of our chaos. The world may wonder of all the “great things” he could have been, but, if we trust that God is sovereign, we can mourn the loss without mourning the “what ifs” of the future.

If I am to be a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes, I hope to be a mist like my friend. His appearance for a little time was filled with joy and laughter, friendship and love, and, as we ache to hear his bellowing voice one last time, he’s sitting with the Almighty One in the most perfect tomorrow ever imaginable.

Holly Paulette

Holly is in love with good words and wants to share them with the world. She is the wife of a farmer, a diehard Hokie, self-proclaimed indoorsy type, and will never turn down a chocolate chip cookie. She's learning to find herself at the feet of the King of the Universe, who, for some crazy reason, knows her name.

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    2nd Sep 2015 - 9:22 pm

    This is such a enlightening way to look at death in young folks! I’ve lost two children ( 5 and 31) and never thought of death in this fashion. Thanks for sharing.

    Lisa Larsom

    3rd Sep 2015 - 7:35 pm

    So well-written. So true.

    Sharie Shupp

    5th Sep 2015 - 11:56 pm

    “…but if we trust that God is sovereign, we can mourn the loss without mourning the “what ifs” of the future.” What a wonderful post!!

    Links & Likes

    6th Sep 2015 - 1:32 pm

    […] When Young People Die (This was so good for me as our community continues to heal after the loss of two young journalists here about a week ago.) […]


    7th Sep 2015 - 1:09 pm

    Beautiful – thanks for sharing.


    8th Sep 2015 - 2:03 am


    Thank you so much for being obedient to the Lord and sharing His word that He placed on your heart. On August 28th of this year I lost my cousin who was like my brother. Tonight, this met me exactly where I was. What sweet and deeply rooted truth I found through your transparency.

    depth of feels » Kaitlyn Phipps Photography

    8th Sep 2015 - 4:39 pm

    […] was drafting a blog post on tragedy and then my friend Holly wrote this masterpiece and I realized that all she had said were exactly my thoughts on grief and tragedy at such a young […]

    Darryl goodman

    8th Sep 2015 - 9:04 pm

    thx for reminding me that Jesus does no wrong as bad as I miss my baby girl I know she is in the best care available and she is happier than anything on this old cruel world could ever make her


    9th Sep 2015 - 5:23 am

    I read this and know it’s true, but my heart is still completely broken over the loss of my 26 year old son, who was accidentally shot and killed by his friend 2 years ago. My son was only 26, engaged, with a new dream job and a 6 week old baby. He had just became clean after years of drug abuse. I was finally getting that relationship every mom wants with her son. When my son was 17, he became a father to a sweet baby girl named Kati. When Kati was 5 years old, her mom’s boyfriend beat her to death on July 4th, 2009. My son was 2 months away from getting custody of her. Just when everything was working out, it all fell apart. Father and daughter in heaven, and yes, God blessed me by leaving me another granddaughter, but I still feel broken.


    10th Sep 2015 - 4:11 am

    I lost one of my best friends a little over a week ago, and somehow this article made its appearance on my timeline. Thank you so much for putting these words and thoughts together in such a graceful manner. As I read this a smile came to my face realizing all of this is so true! God knew the plans for our friend’s lives from the moment they were born. Although my heart still hurts from losing someone I had known my whole life, I can find peace knowing he is sitting with the Almighty One in Heaven and I will see him again someday. “My friend’s final “tomorrow” meant a grand entrance into Heaven and an angelic celebration at the gates.” Thank you so much!

    Rita Arnold

    11th Sep 2015 - 3:07 am

    I have never thought of it this way. That’s why God allowed my daughter who was 48 to do so many things in her life and to touch so many people with her smile and her winning attitude. We live in a very small town. But there were over 800 people at her funeral. I still miss and I grieve for her. She was also my best friend. Her son’s age 24 and 23 still really miss her. She was the hub of our family. It’s been about one year now but this helped to remind me. Jesus is perfect and does not make mistakes. I will forever grieve for her until the day I see her again. I know she will meet me at the gates of Heaven and we will be reunited again. Paula I will join you one of these days my love.

    Holly Paulette

    11th Sep 2015 - 2:53 pm

    Shelley–my heart kept breaking as I kept reading your comment. I can’t even fathom the losses you’ve endured, and my hope and prayer with this article was that it’d NEVER, ever, ever come across as trying to suppress or undermine the depth of mourning. So, please know that the tragedy of your loss should not be glossed over simply because God is sovereign. I hope that God’s sovereignty, however, brings an other-worldly peace. That, in the midst of the pain, He’d be the rock that’s unmovable. So many prayers for you.

    Susie Skyles

    13th Sep 2015 - 5:35 pm

    Holly. Thank you for sharing this. I just lost my nephew at the age of 22, engaged with a new baby girl to a freak hunting accident. As everyone was saying oh only if….or what if… I knew it was his day and time to be called away. Your words touched my heart. You are so correct. I love how God knows what we need reading this today is what I needed.

    lori travers

    6th May 2016 - 10:41 pm

    Beautifully said.. it is truth that helps sooth our sad souls this side of Heaven.

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