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APRIL 29, 2009 6:15AM

The Lucky Death of Charles Schulze

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They say you should never count a man lucky until you've seen his death. I've never been sure of the exact meaning of this. Does it mean your luck can change at any moment, so that even a long life of good fortune can be overshadowed by a miserable death? Or does it mean that one's death somehow reflects back upon one's life, lending the whole enterprise a final, determinative coloration?

Either way, Charles Schulze died very, very well a few days ago. As this brief video from CNN describes, the 73 year-old was walking along the beach in Florida with his long-time girlfriend when he spotted two boys being swept away in a rip tide. Without thinking, he swam out to them and dragged them both back to shore. The boys were nine and twelve.

With the boys safe, Shulze collapsed, and the waves washed over him.

I was struck by the calm you can see in the eyes of his girlfriend and son in the CNN video. They're talking about a man they loved, who'd died unexpectedly the day before, but they don't seem particularly shocked or devestated. They're proud, and obviously focussed not on their loss, but on how enriched their lives are for having known the man. Another parting gift from Charles.

Those boys were very lucky Charles Schulze was walking by in their moment of crisis. But maybe Charles Schulze was even luckier.

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