We were shocked to read of Steve Irwins death today. It was on the front page of Aftonbladet, the Swedish evening newspaper, barely 12 hours after it had happened. But we had heard before that via an email from Paulo, in Canada. Of course, we didn’t know Steve Irwin, and yet, like millions around the world, we felt we did know him. The Crocodile Hunter is a household name in our home, as in so many others. We have laughed at Steve’s contagious enthusiasm for everything wild since we first encountered him years ago. Like so many others we have made the pilgrimage to the Australia Zoo up on the Sunshine Coast, near Caloundra, and marvelled at the crocodiles as well as the other wonders of Australian wildlife. With Steve Irwin, you felt as if he was a good mate, even if you had never met him.
He died doing what he did best, and what he loved most – interacting with the wild, unpredictable creatures which he had loved since his childhood. A freak accident involving a barb which pierced his chest when the stingray he was following, apparently spooked by his presence, whipped out its tail in presumed self defense, while Steve was swimming above it in the waters off Low Isles, out from Port Douglas. Had the barb hit him anywhere else he would probably have been OK, but a penetrating wound to the chest underwater held very little chance of survival, and it is thought the Crocodile Hunter died almost instantly off a cardiac arrest. He was dead by the time he had been dragged out of the water.
It has affected our family more than we would have expected. We talked about it around the table tonight. The tragedy is much more for his family – his 8 year old daughter Bindi and his 3 year old son, Bob, as well as for his wife, of course. But as we sat wondering how such a tragedy could happen, and what God could be thinking in allowing such a thing to someone who has brought so much joy to the world as well as to his own family, I was reminded that life comes to an end for us all sooner or later. It is always sad, sometimes tragic, but in the end, it is not so much how long we live but how well we live that is important. It is not the length of our days that marks us out, but what we have done with the days we have been given. Steve Irwin did so much with the days he had been given. He brought joy and wonder and laughter to so many. He lived not just for himself and his own interests; he was passionate about bringing the wonder of the natural world to as many as he could. His was a life well lived. And his death came in the midst of that life.
We had been talking about wisdom at the dinner table. What is wisdom, I asked the kids? Is it knowing a lot? We decided it is not, but it is the ability to make right decisions. The verse we read came from Psalm 90: “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Steve Irwin was a man who made the most of his time. He lived life to the full, giving everything he had to every moment. Did he grow in wisdom? Was he wise? Hanna was the one who summed it up: he was wise because he lived life not just for himself but for others.
That became our prayer tonight: Teach us to make the most of our time; so that we might grow in wisdom.