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July 2008 Archives

Randy Pausch gave dying a happy face

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God bless you.

A very small part of me felt sad when Dr. Randy Pausch, 47, died Friday from pancreatic cancer.

But a much larger part rejoiced because of the heroic, even happy way, he went about dying.

All of us yet-surviving cancer patients can take heart from Pausch. He did not depart cursing God, feeling sorry for himself or claiming he had been cheated. I've seen older people, some blessed to live twice Randy's age and suffer half his adversity, accuse God of cheating them and use their last breath to whine sympathy out of anybody willing to listen.

Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, husband, father of three and a pioneer of virtual reality research, indeed gave us the truest example of a virtual reality drama that so many TV farces are mocking in pitiful fashion.

Pausch's reality was viciously virtual. He was really fighting for his life ever since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, 2006. Then, last September, doctors told him he had only about six months to live. He responded by taping his world-famous "Last Lecture," in which he summed up a life so well lived that he would not be cheated by death,and then he teamed with writer Jeffrey Zaslow for 53 days to write his $6 million best seller, "The Last Lecture."

I have been blessed because my three health challenges--brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure--don't total the severity of Pausch's pancreatic cancer, considered to be the deadliest of cancers.

I am also blessed that my prognosis for recovery are more promising, thanks to God's healing grace, faith, prayer and the care of physicians. The fact that Pausch refused to go softly and quietly into that endless night is a profound lesson for the living. The maturity and the quality of the ways we live will pretty much dictate the dignity and discipline with which we die.

Pausch, who rejoiced that he had achieved most of his childhood dreams, chose to die in the open, pretty much the way I have chosen to fight my health issues through this public blog through God's healing grace.

I thank God that He blessed Pausch to live five months longer than doctors had predicted. I also thank God that He blessed Senator Edward Kennedy to undergo brain cancer that is lengthening his life after his preliminary diagnosis was most dire.

I hope, just as Pausch, Kennedy and so many other brave cancer patients hope, that our courage to fight against, rather than take flight from, our afflictions can inspire others to do the same.

Just as Pausch said about his life, I am already abundantly blessed to have known the joy of living a good life, the accomplishment of overcoming childhood poverty, the love of a sweet wife of 40 years, of three daughters and five grandchildren. Most of all, in Black Baptist parlance, I've been to the river, I've been baptized, soul's been converted, I'm on my way to heaven and I'm so glad that this mean world can't do me any harm.

To you who are well and are often prone to brag about never having spent a night in a hospital, you should stop bragging and starting thanking and praising God. Suffering time may be headed to your house sooner than you think.

I wish my dear mother, Sarah Loraine Banks, had been blessed with a miracle that could have spared her a painful death from blood poisoning from child bearing at age 42. If not for, among other things, Mississippi's racial discrimination of health care in the early '50s, my mother could have been saved.

The same for my twin sons, who died from premature birth in 1974. My wife Joyce's water broke after carrying them for six months. One was still born and the other died a day later.

But the Lord is still good. He blessed us with three daughters and my wife and I are still happily married after 40 years. So, as we so often say in our Baptist church, you can't make me doubt Him because I know too much about Him. As I look back over my 64 years of life thus far, I can see so much that the Lord has done for me. And still the half may never be told.

God bless you.

Daddy came back from the dead

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God bless you.
My faith that God will completely heal me from brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure owes some of its support to my daddy, the late Rev. Anderson Douglas Banks, Sr.
In 1951, daddy, then 40, was driving through a rain storm from our hometown, Indianapolis, Ind., on U.S. highway 24, on his way to Nashville, Tenn., for a board meeting of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Incorp.
When he came across two women trying to push their bogged-down car out of roadside mud, just outside of Paducah, Ky., the Christian and gentleman in him refused to let him pass by on the other side. So he stopped and ran across the road to help.
Thanks to his 5-9, 230-pound frame, daddy succeeded in pushing the car sufficiently forward to gain traction and spin its tires out of the mud. The women went on their way. His good deed done, daddy says he then pushed his luck and tried to run back across the highway to his car. But the rain and an apparent bend in the road blinded him from seeing a pickup truck that hit him and propelled him some 25 feet through the air.
When daddy landed and would-be rescuers came to him, he lay unconscious on the ground, bleeding profusely from compound fractures of both legs. Unable to feel his pulse, the rescuers concluded he was dead and called an ambulance to take him to the nearest funeral home.
But during the slow trip to the mortuary, one of the ambulance attendants saw him move a finger, examined him, found a pulse and had the driver to turn on the siren and change his destination from the funeral home and speed to the nearest hospital.
After hours of emergency surgery and pints of blood transfusions, daddy's life was saved.
When the news of his accident reached home within hours, my mama, the late Sarah Loraine Sanders-Banks, announced its arrival with a ear-piercing scream that woke up her four sons and two daughters.
I awake to find her standing in the frame of our opened front door, looking up to the gray, rainy, early-morning sky, crying and praying in epileptic anguish.
"Your daddy's been in a bad accident and they don't think he'll live," mama said. "We all gotta pray."
We joined her in tears and prayers as my older sisters Maude Lee and Lue Kuicious hugged and consoled her.
Within a couple of days, daddy regained consciousness, but remained in critical condition. When his condition was stabilized and ungraded and he was transferred to Indianapolis, he says his chief doctor gave him a grave prognosis.
"You're lucky to be alive because you had been severely injured," the doctor said, "had lost a lot of blood and your heart had stopped beating temporarily. You'll live. But it will take a miracle for you to ever walk again. And if you do, it will be with the aid of crutches or a walking cane."
I was eight years old at the time and I remember the great jubilation when they brought daddy home and camped him in a hospital bed in the dinning room, so that he could better receive visitors. My mama and we children waited on him and bathed him in prayers around the clock. It was doing that time that I was called to preach at the age of nine.
Within six months of his return home, daddy recovered well enough to return to the pulpit at the Mt. Carmel Baptist church, where he was pastor. But he preached from a wheel chair with both his legs in casks. Members shouted for joy each time he preached.
A few months later, he preached, aided by crutches. Members shouted even more vociferously.
A few months later, daddy would shed his casks and preached with the aid of a walking cane. The shouting grew more madly with mama leading the joyful wrecking crew.
A few months later, daddy was able to stand flat-footed, preach with even more power and no tear glands of true believers could withstand seeing and hearing him without unleashing torrential praise.
Thereafter, for the remaining 20 years of his life, that miraculous recovery was the principal testimony that daddy used to close his sermons until he died from a stroke in 1974 at the age of 63.
That testimony was branded into the hearts, minds and souls of me and my siblings. Again, at the time of his convalescence, I was called to preach. Daddy and I then became a tag team, preaching and fighting the devil bare-handed, slaying satanic dragons and combing Mississippi cotton fields for sinners after daddy had lost his pastorage in Mississippi and moved his family back to Lyon, Miss., to live in the same house where I had been born with the aid of a midwife.
Life was hard at times in those days as daddy pastored four churches, that held services once a month. Plus, we sharecropped 15 acres of cotton for a couple of years to make ends meet. Daddy pastored the poor, who paid him with farm produce and game when they could not pay him money.
Mama died at the age of 42 from blood poisoning after unknowingly carrying a dead fetus, her 13th child, in her womb for a couple of weeks. Daddy greeted the news of her death by sitting on the steps of the front porch of our house (the church parsonage) in Lyon and unleashed a crying scream I'd never heard before, have never heard since and don't want to. Death had parted him from his loving wife of 23 years.
Mama never lived long enough to see one of her eight surviving children get married or have one of us to take her out, or invite her over, for dinner. To this very day, I cry when I recall how mama--an old-schooled housewife who could cook, iron, wash (with scrub board), sew, keep house, make the most beautiful quilts--lived so little and died so young.
After her funeral, her brothers and sisters wanted to parcel out her children because they didn't think a traveling preacher like daddy could do a good job of raising us. But daddy refused to break us up. He had promised mama that he would keep us all together.
"There's not a step child in the bunch," he'd often say.
In 1956, daddy left the Liberty Baptist Church in Lyon to become pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. There, as liberated refugees from the Mississippi cotton fields and the ruthless racism of the South, my sisters and brothers and I found new hope and great opportunity to upgrade our lives north of the Mason-Dixon line.
But the testimony of how the Lord raised my daddy from the dead and healed him of crippling injuries, suffered while playing good Samaritan on a rain-drenched Kentucky highway, has remained, for me, an abiding anthem of my faith. And it is from that miracle that I draw confidence that the same God who delivered him will deliver me for all the world to see.
I'm ready to accept whatever God's final decision is. In the interim, I want Him to get glory out of my aches and pains, my losses and gains. I am a healing in progress. The brain cancer has been ruled benign. The prostate cancer, despite resultant incidents of painful and embarrassing incontinence, is being effectively treated with radioactive seeds. And my heart is strong enough to no longer warrant an emergency heart transplant.
God bless you!
Praise the Lord.
Hallelujah!
Thank you Jesus!


Best wishes from high school classmates

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God bless you.
Three months ago, when news of my newest health issues hit my former hometown of Kansas City, Kan., I got a lot of calls and get-well cards from former high school classmates, who have assured me ever since that they have been praying for God to heal me from my brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure. Indeed, God is doing just that.
But the closest I've ever been to a reunion of my Sumner High School graduating class of 1961 came last Sunday when 30 of my former classmates came to hear me preach at the Strangers Rest Baptist Church in KCK, where my brother, the Rev. Jimmie Lee Banks, is pastor.
My good friend, Joann Ferguson Kendall, with the help of Annette Williams, was kind enough to call a couple of days in advance and inform fellow classmates that I would be preaching. I was extremely surprised, pleased and encouraged to see so many faces that I had not seen in 47 years and that gathering reminded me of how blessed I am.
Class reunions help many of us to count and relish our blessings as we see how we and our classmates have handled the many challenges of life since graduation. Especially hardships. Perhaps, you, too, have been equally touched by such reunions.
You've never met them. But nobody could have had better high school classmates than I had in the likes of Joann, Jimmie Lee (who was so smart he skipped a grade to be in the same class I was), his wife the former Alice Yates, Annette, Shelby Johnson, Lemuel Norman, Beverly Fouse, Henry Briscoe, Lurie Horton, Robert Scroggins, Carolyn Officer-Cook, Wiletta Easley, Herman Love, Jackie Brown, Margaret McGilbray, Sam Fennell, Annette St. Jean, Margaret McCluney and so many more. Former underclassmen present Sunday included Dr. Bertram Caruthers, an highly accomplished dematologist, my wife Joyce and Betty Maddox.
Many of our classmates, as old folks used to say, died before time. We lost some in the Vietnam War and some from the Vietnam War after they came home with drug addictions and assorted other afflictions that proved terminal. Others died young from cancer, heart attacks, auto accidents, violent crimes and other accidents. Most of my classmates, who got married, suffered at least two divorces and have been single ever since. Bad marriages can be hard, but good, teachers.
I especially hate to see so many of our fine black women unable to find good husbands, who are willing to love them, work hard, respect them, help raise their children and preserve their marriages. Too many are looking for wives to be their meal tickets, second mothers or punching bags. So I agree wholeheartedly with the exhortations of Presidential candidate Barack Obama. It's the same thing I preach about again and again as I look out from the pulpit and see that women make up 85 percent of the congregations I preach to. They are the backbone of our churches and families. And that's the raw, ugly, but honest ,truth.

Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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