By Kay Etheredge
There are daisies in a vintage blue Mason jar on my counter. They are just beginning to wilt even though I got them over two weeks ago. We attended the memorial service for Max Adams, a dear friend of Brother Bryan Mission, who passed away just before Christmas from Covid. In the 37 years that my husband and I have been involved in ministry together, we have seen much loss. Too much. Each loss hurt deeply; some more visceral than others. Max was one of the deep hurts. My husband had sent me a text telling me Max was in the hospital. I began immediately to pray, stopping several times throughout the day to lift him up to our Father. I found myself as the day wore on praying simply, “Please God, not Max. Please don’t take Max”.
Later there was a text from Jim that was short but heartbreaking.
“Max passed away”.
That night my husband said quietly, “When I heard, I had to get out of the mission for a bit. I just had to get away”.
Today or tomorrow I will throw out the daisies, given as a gift at the memorial because when asked how he was, Max often replied, “I’m fresh as a daisy”. Max left a deep footprint on this world. My Dad, a welder, always said you can tell the character of a man by how he treats the common person. Max treated executives and janitors the same. He always had a twinkle in his eye and he always listened. He always stopped and chatted with anyone who crossed his path. He gave, and what he gave was himself.
Today begins the month of February. In my conversations with others, I am beginning to hear that hope is fading. Maybe there was too much hype placed on the beginning of 2021. Headlines screamed that we are leaving behind 2020. We are starting anew. We did, and very little changed. People are still getting sick and many are dying.
A friend at church yesterday said, “I always thought I would die in a car crash. I never thought I would die from a virus”. He is generally in good health and does not have Covid.
My husband and I pray before he leaves for work each morning. This morning his words were different. “Thank You, Lord, for another day together”.
If there is any good, maybe it is in the learning to take each day as a gift, and to hold everything with an open hand.
A week ago, Bobby Montgomery came into my Friday only office at Brother Bryan Mission and stuck out his cell phone. He was almost breathless with excitement. Bobby is the kitchen manager, and they operate largely on donations. They are graciously donated chicken from a local chain restaurant and pizza from another, and Bobby and the other cooks are very creative in their use of this food. Everything they prepare is delicious, and the men are definitely grateful, but as Bobby put it, “some of them are beginning to cluck like chickens”.
David Carrier, the kitchen director, had asked Bobby if they could maybe serve some beef. Bobby checked the freezer and said they had an abundance of chicken, a few hams, and some turkeys. They began to put together an order for the Food Bank, and as they tallied up the order, they saw that the prices had gone way up. Bobby came to Jim, the Executive Director and my husband, to ask if it was okay to order some hamburger meat.
Jim recommended prayer.
“Let’s pray about it for a few days”.
So Bobby and David prayed that God would send them some hamburger meat.
The first response after praying was from St. Andrews who asked if the mission could use some 10 lb logs of hamburger meat. The next response was from Firehouse Shelter asking, “Hey, can you use some hamburger meat”? They sent 18 cases of 12 x 2 trays. And finally there was an email from a kind lady who helps run the food bank at a local church. She was offering 6-7 (10 lb) logs of…ground beef.
The calendar flipped to a new month today. A blank slate. Even though it is 37 degrees outside, the jonquils have bravely emerged from their underground winter home and now stand, in some places, 6 inches tall. Soon they will bloom. Today I read a quote by Mark Vroegop that said, “Lament is the historic biblical prayer language of Christians in pain. It’s the voice of God’s people while living in a broken world. Laments acknowledge the reality of pain while trusting in God’s promises”. Our hearts break over losing people we love. The very act of prayer means that we bend and bow and hold our hands open. Sometimes we rise from that bowed position in grief, but we still ask. We pray because God tells us to.
I’m sure the men at Brother Bryan are eating some kind of beef today, and I know it is delicious. Two recovered drug addicts whose lives were transformed by the Father are marveling and rejoicing at His goodness. And I feel certain that Max Adams, eyes twinkling, is rejoicing in His goodness as well, and would revel in hearing the story of the ground beef prayers.
But then, I am also fairly certain that a newly healed Max who truly IS now fresh as a daisy, already knows.