God bless you.
Since doctors told me 17 months ago that I have end-stage congestive heart failure,
prostate cancer and a brain tumor, not one day has passed without me thinking about
death and seeing myself dying from one of these serious illnesses.
Yes, I'm still praying to be healed of these sicknesses. I'll never give up and I thank
all of you prayer partners for continuing to touch and agree with me on the desires of my
heart for those healings.
At the same time, because I am a practical man, as well as a preaching man of
faith, I'm not sitting idly by, waiting for some cataclysmic healing to drop from the sky.
Rather, I take about 30 pills a day for these illnesses. And when pill-taking time
comes, I spread the proper pills out on a table or counter and I remember why I am
swallowing each one. I take them because I am a very sick man who wants to live and I'm
doing my best to take full advantage of every blessing available to keep me alive.
The deaths of celebrities this year remind us again and again that no earthling is
going to get out of life alive. While the death of Senator Edward Kennedy sadden all
men of good will, it's not too surprising because we knew that he was had been fighting
brain cancer for a year. Plus, he was 77 years old.
Neither was it that shocking when historian John Hope Franklin died at age 94,
network news anchorman Walter Cronkite died at 92, actor Karl Malden died at 97,
humantarian Eunice Kennedy Shriver died at 88, former defense secretary Robert
McNamara died at 93 or guitarist Les Paul died at 94. These dears souls were up in
Famed Michael Jackson, one of my all-time favorite entertainers, shocked us all
when he died young at age 50. But the circumstances of his death now help us to
better understand why he died so young.
Meantime, while I am no longer young at age 66, I am not really old, either, by
today's standards that include the best medical care so far ever available in human
history. Even better, I am blessed to be gainfully employed and have access to this care.
If this care had been enjoyed by my immediate family members, my oldest sister, Mrs.
Maude Lee Burrell, would not have died at age 66. Or my father Rev. A.D. Banks at age
64, my youngest brother Hansel at age 51, my mother at age 43, my premature
twin sons or my five other sisters and brothers at infancy.
Like all of you, I want to live a longer, meaningful and enjoyable life. But I'm no
longer afraid to die like I was when I was a boy. Death doesn't bother me because I've
already lived 66 sensational years. Death doesn't bother me because I've already seen
three daughters become distinguished ladies with college degrees, including one with
a Christian husband and four children and another a Christian single mother with one
I'm not afraid to die because I have already enjoyed many other priceless
I have seen, hugged and kissed five grandchildren.
I have known the fiery love and sweet companionship of Joyce, my high school
sweetheart who has been a perfect wife for more than 41 years.
I have been blessed to work my way up from eating neckbones to eating T-bones.
I've been blessed to rise from a Mississippi cotton picker earning $3 a day to
being sports reporter for this newspaper and a preacher earning almost 100 times that
I casted one of the votes that elected America's first black President.
I marched in civil rights demonstrations with Dr. Martin Luther King.
I was the first person in my immediate family to get a college degree.
I've preached in more than 100 Chicago churches alone, plus churches in Kansas,
Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania,
Michigan, Arkansas and California during the last 57 years.
I've set foot in 35 American states and I have vacationed in England, Mexico,
France, Germany, Holland and Canada. I've been mightily blessed.
But the main reason I'm not afraid to die is because I have a savior in Jesus Christ.
And because He is my savior, I have a permanent home for my soul when this life is
If I had my choice, I'd rather die quick and easy, preaching God's gospel in some
pulpit or wherever. Because of poor medical care and racial prejudice, my mother, Sarah
Lorane Sanders Banks, died suffering excruciating pain over several days after being
poisoned by a dead infant she was too weak to deliver.
I was 11 years old at that time. They called me home from running a revival in Cape
Gerardeau, Mo. She was dying in a hospital bed in Mt. Bayou, Miss., an all-Black
town and an all-Black hospital. I got there just in time to see her smile through incredible
pain a day before she died. I was mad at the world. Especially the white world and the
Mississippi racism that conspired to deny her better medical care. I've grown beyond that
rage. But I still hate racism and I still hurt when I think of how my mother died so young.
Yes, I want to live. I have so much to live for. I have loved ones to live for. I have
causes to live for. I want to do what I can to make this world better for everybody and to
help suffering people everywhere.
I want to live badly. But because of my faith, I declare unto you all that death, for me,
is a win-win situation.
Doctors still tell me that I need a heart pump or a heart transplant or both if I am
to live out the year. Daily pains are making me agree with them, unless God heals me
I have become a reluctant daily companion of unwelcomed pain. All kinds of pain.
Stinging pains. Burning pains. Aching pains. Acute pains. Dull pains. My arms and legs
are growing weaker and my finger tips scream, through stinging sensations, for their fair
share of circulated blood.
Three weeks ago, I underwent a back surgery to relieve me from extreme pains in
my lower back. Pains persists in my left groin and left legs. But I am blessed to be able
to endure these pains and to enjoy far more positives than negatives. I am still able to
preach and work. I am still able to encourage others to fight for their lives. And I say
unto you, sisters and brothers, fight. Fight for your lives. Fight for your love. Fight to
love and be loved. Fight for the good of all mankind. Fight for every breath and for every
God bless you.