“World’s Oldest Man Dies.”  I saw this headline last week in an online news feed.  I followed the link and found a very interesting AP article written by Matt Volz.  Walter Breuning passed away last Thursday in Great Falls, Montana, at the age of 114.  Born in 1896, Breuning enjoyed a life span that covered parts of three different centuries!  The article by Volz included Breuning’s simple philosophy of life and sage counsel for others: embrace change, eat two meals a day (“That’s all you need”), work as long as you can, and help others. 

Though I had never heard of Walter Bruening before, there was something strangely familiar about the headline that announced his death, “World’s Oldest Man Dies.”  Where had I seen that before?  The obvious answer is that I (and you) have seen that same headline numerous times over the years, both in print and, in more recent years, in news stories on the internet.  In fact, it was the death of someone else that allowed Breuning to be declared the world’s oldest man on July 18, 2009 by the Guinness Book of World Records.  With Breuning’s death, the men’s longevity crown has now been conferred upon another centenarian who, given his advanced age, will pass the title on to yet another, likely sooner rather than later.  By it’s very nature, it is not a notable distinction that you can hold for very long.  By the way, the world’s oldest person title is still held by Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia, who was 26 days older than Breuning.  

Walter Breuning’s death is another reminder of the finite limitations of our earthly existence.  In fact, another of Breuning’s mantras was being able to accept death; “We’re going to die.  Some people are scared of dying.  Never be afraid to die.  Because you’re born to die.”  Whether you live to be 114 like Breuning and Cooper or if you just make it past the “threescore and ten” mark (Psalm 90:10) like my Mom who passed away at the age of 73, we are still just a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14).  Wisdom demands that we “number our days” (Psalm 90:12) and “make the most of our time” (Ephesians 4:16).

Life is short; eternity is not.