As I prepare to travel to Chicago for the annual Midwinter Pastor’s Conference next week, I am reminded that I will not see my friend, and former pastor, Mike there. Mike was our my first search committee and served as chair of the church council pastor when we lived and worshiped in Santa Cruz, CA, which is where I chaired. Mike and I would meet regularly for breakfast at the Santa Cruz Diner, where we would discuss our lives as well as the life and ministry of the church. Mike played a significant role in my discerning to attend seminary and enter the ministry.
While we were in seminary in Chicago, Mike always made time to have dinner with us while he was there for Midwinter. And after seminary he and I made a point to connect for a meal during the week. But we won’t this year, because Mike is dying. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma (brain cancer) in December 2016, with a terminal prognosis. Since then, Mike has been making every effort to live his life to the fullest; giving thanks for every day and treasuring every moment. Mike has chronicled and processed his journey through Facebook and a blog. And he has even self-published two books of his poetry in that time!
I won’t see Mike at Midwinter, because he is dying. I am grateful for the meals that we have shared (the last being lunch, at the Santa Cruz Diner, this past October) and the impact that his ministry and friendship has had on my life. Through his nearly daily writings on Facebook, Mike continues to minister to many others and me as he reflects upon his life and his faith. Each day I check to see if Mike has written another post, as a means of checking in and checking up on him. But I know that one day the posts will stop. I dread that day, but I also pray for that day for Mike, because on that day the pain of death for him will finally be over.
I can pray for that day because a mutual friend of ours, mine, Mike’s and yours, has also died. During the Season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb 14), we prepare to remember our friend Jesus’ death. Jesus died so that we need not fear death. Jesus died so that he might conquer death on our behalf, through the resurrection. During Lent we reflect upon our own sinfulness and our own mortality, in preparation for the celebration of the forgiveness and everlasting life that we receive through the resurrection. The season of Lent invites all of us to give thanks for each day, as we, like my friend Mike, acknowledge and give thanks for the gift of life and life everlasting.