God bless you.
It's 3:45 a.m. Thursday morning and I am wide awake, sleepless as usual and
thinking of my death while listening to one of my favorite classical music recordings on
my Direct TV's satellite radio station.
It is the "Love scene" from Hector Berlioz' Romeo and Julliette symphonic opera.
Ever since I was diagnosed last March with end-stage congestive heart failure
(requiring a heart transplant), prostate cancer and a brain tumor that was quickly ruled
benign, I have had trouble sleeping at night partly because I am frequently awakened by
shortness of breath or some other discomfort associated with my illnesses and the dozen
different medications I take for them daily.
Still, the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all
There were many times last spring I did not feel I would live out 2008. Much of my
suffering, I kept private. Like so many sufferers, there is only so much pity that we can
take. Especially if we are fighting feverishly to live as I am doing.
So many people hand out pity in the form of a compassionate death sentence. It's
like they have already given up on you and feel they had better get their expressions of
sadness and sorrow out of the way just in case I die in the next five minutes.
I have accepted the conclusion of many doctors that death, without a heart transplant
or an implanted heart pump, is a real probability for me within the next year. At the same
time, I have faith that God is in the process of healing me slowly for all the world to see.
There isn't a day that passes without me not just considering the inevitability of my
death but with me feeling the nearness of it, yet refusing to surrender to it.
But when I think of the fact that my mama, the late Sarah Lorraine Sanders Banks,
died at age 43, I know that I am a blessed man to be living at age 65. I also have outlived
my father, the late Rev. Anderson Douglass Banks, Sr., who died at age 63 and my
youngest sibling, a brother Hansel, who died at age 52.
Then, there were my twin infant sons that my wife Joyce gave birth to prematurely in
1974, the same year my father died. They did not survive the cradle. One was born dead.
the other died within a day.
And here I am 65 years old, seriously ill but not too sick where I still can't do my jobs
as a newspaper reporter and preacher. I just have to pace myself better, do more
advanced planning and minimize stress and strain while praying for my healing and taking
my medicines as prescribed.
Maybe it's best that God took our twin sons in the cradle before we could ever really
get to know them personally and love them tenderly and see parts of us in them as they
grew to open their eyes, cut their teeth, smile at us, say "mama" and "dada" for the first
time, crawl, take their first steps and attach themselves to our hearts, minds and souls
the way children do to their parents.
So God took them before they could imprint themselves upon us and make us
miss them more by dying later. They never wore a diaper, a shoe or used a pacifier, a
bottle or a toy that could remind us of them. Maybe, it was better they died that way even
though it still hurts us, my wife especially, to this day.
But my mother? She gave birth to 12 children, of which eight survived, and she was
pregnant with a 13th that died in her and set up blood poisoning that doomed her to a
slow, excruciatingly painful death while leaving eight children ranging from ages two to 19.
All my mama's surviving children have outlived her. If there ever was a time I argued
with the Lord and really got angry at Him, it was when He allowed my mama to die at age
43. She never lived long enough to see one child get married or to see one of her
eventual 16 grandchildren or to get treated to one dinner by one of her children.
I was 11 years old when she died. I had been preaching two years at that time and I
felt that I had a special relationship with God. I had had visions of conversations with
angels. I heard the voice of God Himself call me to preach one February Tuesday night
after He had awaken me from my sleep while we were living in a duplex as 2307 North
Oxford St., Indianapolis, Ind.
Surely, the Lord would grant me my prayer, heal my mama and let her live. I prayed
and cried, prayed and cried, prayed and cried, begging God to please spare my mama.
But He took her anyway.
Ever since then, I've learned to accept God's will as Jesus teaches us to pray that
God's kingdom come and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
But what my mama's death has done ever since is temper me in my zest for life. Her
death at a young age gave me permanent perspective on life, its value and its uncertainty.
Her death gives me cause to pause whenever I start to feel sorry for myself that I am
battling so many sicknesses simultaneously.
At least I have lived long enough to see all three of my daughters graduate from
college and become grown. I've lived long enough to see, hug and kiss five grandchildren.
I've lived long enough to enjoy a loving wife for more than 40 years. I've lived long enough
to have my children to have me over for dinner and to take me out to dinner. I've lived
long enough to enjoy a great marriage and to grow old with my wife, whom I have taken
on vacations to Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Cancun, Munich,
Amsterdam, Toronto, Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., Ft.
Lauderdale and Miami.
So if the Lord does choose to take me this year, I have not been cheated. I have
already enjoyed more things than either of my parents and any of my sisters and brothers
in terms of honors and travel and excitement and wonderment.
Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
My doctors continue to strongly urge me to let them implant a pacemaker and
defibrillator in me as a precaution against a heart attack for which I am a very likely
prospect. I have been considering it but don't feel I really, really need it. After all, it didn't
save Norm Van Lier and it didn't save Wilt Chamberlain. They were two of many who still
died of heart attacks despite having pacemaker-defibrillator devises implanted in them.
I appreciate your continued prayers and I'm hoping that you are profiting from this
blog in some way or another. Please be encouraged. Our heavenly father sees and He
cares and He who watches over Israel slumbers not nor sleep. The Lord is our keeper.
The Lord is the shade upon our right hand. The sun shall not smite us by day nor the
moon by night. The Lord shall preserve us from all evil. He shall preserves our souls. The
Lord shall preserve our going out and our coming in from this time forward and even
God bless you.