Comedian Bill Cosby has died five times, most recently this week. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. The latest version of his death notice appeared on an “R.I.P. Bill Cosby” Facebook page that sparked a Twitter frenzy and prompted more than a million Google searches. Back in 2010, the last time this happened, Cosby spoke to CNN’s “Larry King Live” to prove he was still around. This time he responded with a simple Tweet of his trademark sweater.
A photoshopped article made to look like a French news site claimed this week that the singer/actress Rihanna had “sunk into an [alcohol-induced] coma before succumbing to a heart attack.” And yesterday a faux news site reported that actor Eddie Murphy had died in a snowboarding accident. The deception was sparked by a web site that has been reporting bogus celebrity deaths for years, including Jon Bon Jovi, Charlie Sheen, Adam Sandler, Kevin Bacon, Tiger Woods, and George Clooney.
They have joined a long list of premature obituaries. Actor Bob Barker was reported to have died in 2007, when he had merely retired. In 1998, Bob Hope’s obituary appeared on the Associated Press web site and was announced in the United States House of Representatives. Sean Connery was reported dead in 1993 after people confused him with recently-deceased former Texas governor John Connally. Bloomberg published a 17-page obituary of Steve Jobs five weeks before his death. And the list goes on.
The most famous premature obituary of all time was probably that of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. In 1888, his brother died but the local newspaper mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary instead. He read it the next day under the title, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” The report said that Nobel “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.” In response, he made a new resolution. In his last will and testament he deeded his great funds to an award honoring those who work for harmony in the world—the Nobel Peace Prize.
Shakespeare reflected his culture and ours when he made Marc Antony say, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” But the opposite is actually true: when we stand before God in judgment, the “wood, hay or straw” of our sins will be “burned up,” while the “gold, silver, and costly stones” of our obedience will bring eternal reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Every single thing you do for Jesus this day, no matter how unrecognized by our society, will be remembered forever.
So here’s the question: If someone published your obituary today, what would it say?