‘I’m Just Dead, I’m Not Gone’

Each day it’s as though each of us is handed a pile of 86,400 seconds. You never see them, but if you live through the day, they’re a part of your life. Seconds, small little pieces of time, and they pass by so quickly. They pass with blazing speed never to be touched again. The title of the article is actually the title of a book written by Jim Dickinson. He was an exceptional musician back in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly around the Memphis area. He spent his life writing music and playing and singing and the people who knew him best held him in high esteem. He was a uniquely put-together, interesting individual. He left those words and it became the title of a book: I’m Just Dead, I’m Not Gone.

He would say those words speaking of the days after he would be gone from this life. He recognized that life was brief. It is like grass that is cut down and quickly withers or like a vapor, Scripture says, like coming out of a steam kettle and quickly it evaporates, is gone and you wonder where it went. Life is so brief for all of us.

If you looked at the entire planet and averaged the life span of everyone on it, you would come out with about 66 years on average. That’s total – men, women, in every part of the world. The fact is that we here in America live a longer life span but even then, it’s shorter than we can imagine. What I want to share with you is that all of us in whatever period of time we have on this earth, leave a distinct imprint on the lives of some folks who knew us. Such is the nature of Jim Dickinson’s book that speaks to our existence too. When we’re gone, I’m just dead, I’m not gone. Think about it for a while and you’ll realize that each of us leaves behind so much that will affect people who knew us and some who didn’t.

When you look in the Scripture in the book of Hebrews 11:4 speaking of Abel who was killed by his brother Cain, the Bible says after his death “he being dead yet speaketh.” Can you imagine? This was the son of Adam and Eve and now millennium after millennium later he being dead yet speaketh. Every one of us should stop and give a few seconds of reflection about that.

One, every life speaks. You may think your life is rather low-key, unseen, unheard, insignificant, maybe even unimportant. Wrong. You are wrong. You have no idea of all the people that you may influence in your life and words speak to, but every life speaks. Can you imagine… what the little boy must feel who got up one morning and went out with the crowds and heard this Jesus speaking. He took him a little lunch with him. Five little pieces of bread and two fish. As the day wore on and the people wore out, Jesus said, “They’re hungry. We need to feed them.” The disciples said, “Well, we don’t have anything.  We don’t have anything except this little boy who brought five loaves and two fish.” Jesus said bring them to me. He blessed them, broke them, and handed them to His disciples who handed them to the 5,000 people who were gathered around. Everyone ate and everyone was full. Today we keep talking about that little boy. Every life speaks and so does yours. Unexpectedly, amazingly, your life speaks.

Two, we all determine whether our lives speak good or bad. Every word we speak, every decision we make, is involved in the shaping of the impact for good or bad. Long after we’re here there will be strands of our lives, thoughts that people have and pass along to others to the point that there will be people who will know you who never knew you and you being dead yet speaketh. What do you leave behind? What do you want people to hear from you, of you, about you? You don’t just have to live daily trying to shape what people hear. You have to live in touch with God to let the Lord lead you and simply do what He wants to do through you as you take the steps in the journey of this life.

But you determine what they will remember, many of the things about which they will think and speak. Just a few names of people who used to walk this planet bring to life in your mind some good things, some bad things about their life and what they did and the way they did it. Just think about them – men like David, Abraham, Isaiah, Peter; women like Ruth, Sarah, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus, and Phoebe. All of them keep speaking to us. Just in the history book of the ages, we could name a thousand, most of whom all of us would know, who keep speaking. Some for good and God; some for bad and harm, but we must walk with Him so that we too can say, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone,” and leave good things behind.

Third, what will your life say? Most of us don’t think in poetic, musical terms like Jim Dickinson did to say something as profound and somewhat off-kilter, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone,” but what will your life say? What will it say to your family? To your great-great-great-great grandchildren? What will it say to believers who come along beyond us?  What will it say to a community, to a church family? What will your life say, because you will not be gone.

As I thought about Jim Dickinson’s book and the title, I thought about what if you reverse that title. For some, even today they might say, “I’m gone, but I’m not dead.” Get that picture. It may be you have been a void, an absentee, when it comes to being a part of other people’s lives whether your children or grandchildren, whether your friends or folks at work, whether it be a stranger with whom you come in contact or a person you’ve known for decades. Have you become an absentee in participating in the blessings of life? That can change today. Jesus wants to use you. He wants to bless you. He will come and give you life and life abundant to share with others that will last years and decades to come.


The author can be contacted at directions@mbcb.org.

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer