Reports of my death

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

Church leaders permit me to teach a course each semester at the local community college. This section has been online due to COVID-19 for the past year. As part of a get-acquainted exercise I asked students in the first week to search the Internet and find an article I’d written. I received an unusual email from one of the students:

“I’m working on getting to the assignment that is currently due, and I was asked to find an article that you had written. Well, I’m not sure if you just happen to have the same name here, maybe I’m confused about just who you are. Maybe it’s true and someone is ghost writing under your alias, I’m not sure. But, well, Wikipedia says you died last year. I really just want to believe maybe I’m mistaken and you’re someone else and just happen to have the same name as this guy, but this legitimately has me incredibly concerned. Are you okay?”

Michael Jamal Brooks died last year at age 36. He was a nationally-known political commentator with a YouTube channel. I’m Michael John Brooks, not as well-known, but alive! I assured this student I yet maintain a pulse.

This episode reminded me of the famous retort of Mark Twain: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

God has blessed me with good health, although as one of my friends often says, one microbe can change your whole life.

It’s true that death can make a surprise appearance. Sometimes doctors can tell us within a few days or within a few weeks when to expect the death of someone we love, or our own death. But for most of us, death comes without warning, perhaps through a sudden health crisis or an accident. Death often intrudes without invitation.

Charles Dickens lay down his pen while writing a novel and died. Southern author and poet Sidney Lanier said before his death, “I have a thousand unwritten songs in my heart.” His songs there remain. The artist Raphael lay down his brush while painting and died. It is said the Roman pope had the unfinished painting displayed during the painter’s funeral procession through the streets of Rome as a visual reminder of death’s uncertainty.

The knowledge of approaching death should motivate all of us to make preparation.

I remember as a boy seeing wooden crosses beside the roadways that read, “Prepare to meet God.” I didn’t know at the time that these were the words of the ancient prophet Amos (Amos 4:12). This message, hundreds of years old, is yet appropriate.

We’re invited to make God our friend today so we won’t be strangers when death takes us to meet him.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.