Through it all, each day a gift

Published 5:03 am Sunday, January 14, 2024

By Michael J. Brooks

We’re all reflecting on the new year after safely passing through the old. 2023 was like most other years, filled with good things and bad. The good things I saw included six weeks of concerted prayer at our church, a lot of grandchildren’s basketball and soccer games and completing an online ministry course.

But two bad things came about.

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My mother-in-law died in August at age 91. She’d outlived her husband and my parents by many years and had become more like a mother than an in-law. She was so feisty I guess I thought she’d live forever. But her death came suddenly and unexpectedly on a Monday at an area hospital. Two doctors said her brain quit functioning and recommended removing life support. I’ve been around a lot of death and dying as a pastor, but this was my first time being in a room when life support was shut down. I must say it was eerie and terribly sad.

The family asked me to host the memorial service. I’m glad I suggested an old friend come to do the major devotional message since I was unsure I could maintain composure enough to preside. I could’ve said a lot more but was grateful I could say what I did without breaking down.

The old adage in the South is “give flowers when they’re living.” This adage took on new meaning for me. There were many things I’d have told Mrs. Bell beforehand if I’d known, including the things I thought to say at her funeral, but daily life demanded most every minute, it seemed, until none were left.

The second sad event was in March when I sat with the surgeon.

“You have a tumor,” he said, “and we need to schedule surgery as soon as we can.”

Again, as a pastor, I’ve been with countless people when doctors pronounced the word “cancer,” but this was the first time a doctor said it to me. I felt helpless. I’ve always busied myself as a fixer of things, but I didn’t know what I could do in this situation, other than rely on the wisdom of the doctor. Five days later I overnighted at the hospital and got a good report from the surgeon. But it was a week filled with new thoughts of my own fragility.

Perhaps readers also faced serious circumstances in the year past, and, like me, have a new appreciation for life.

“This is the day the Lord has made,” the psalmist declared.

Every day is a gift from God. And a responsibility. We must love God and love others while we can, for as Jesus said, “The hour is coming when no man can work.”

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.