Posted by: Mike Willoughby | May 31, 2011

Three Birthdays

Three different May 31st birthdays are especially on my mind tonight as I collect my Intersections thoughts.  Each of these three birthdays represents three very different people with very different life stories to tell.  Other than the fact that each of their lives has intersected my own life there may appear to be little in common between them.  However, I see a common thread.

Doris was born on May 31, 1918 and passed from this life on April 4, 2011.  She was my maternal grandmother and was the matriarch of my family for as long as I can remember.  I was at her bedside two days before she died and although her body was failing her, her mind was a sharp as ever.  I had the privilege of preaching her memorial service a couple of weeks ago at her home congregation in Henderson, Nevada and it was a joyous time as we celebrated a life lived very well.  Doris was a strong and faithful Christian woman who shared her faith through service to others as well as through the testimony of her words.  As a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and friend – she talked the talk AND walked the walk her whole life.  I have been blessed by Doris’ presence in my life.

Adam was born on May 31, 1990 with a serious physical problem.  He had polycystic kidney disease which ultimately cost him one of his kidneys which had to be removed.  This disease can be fatal in young children and so every day we have Adam is truly a gift from God.  Adam is our oldest son’s best friend and we have all but adopted him as our own fourth “son” (since three boys are obviously not enough).  We first met Adam at the Christian school our kids attended.  Lyndon and Adam quickly became best friends and as a result we came to know and love Adam’s parents, Bob and Elizabeth.  Bob and Elizabeth raised Adam in a strong faithful Christian home and now Adam has a vibrant faith of his own.  A pre-med student in Abilene Christian University’s Body and Soul program, Adam dreams of using his talents and medical experience to help others in physical need while he also ministers to his patients’ emotional and spiritual needs.  Rather than wait until after graduating from medical school to help people, he has participated in two Spring Break Medical Missions Campaigns to Central America over the past two years and he was the team leader for the 2011 campaign.  Although his 21 years pales in comparison to Doris’ 93 years, Adam has also started to walk the walk AND talk the talk.  I have been blessed by Adam’s presence in my life.

Benjamin was born around 1:30pm on May 31, 2011.  Ironically for me, Benjamin also suffered from polycystic kidney disease only in his case, both kidneys were affected.  He was diagnosed through an ultrasound on April 21st.  Benjamin’s parents, Derek and Lindsay let our church family know on Sunday April 24th that they had received this devastating diagnosis and that Benjamin would not survive.  We prayed for them on that day and we have been praying for them since knowing this day would come.  Benjamin lived 90 minutes during which time he snuggled with his mom and dad, he held his dad’s finger in his little grip and he was passed around to his extended family.  Pictures were taken and a lifetime of memories were captured in a mere 90 minutes.  Kristal and I along with our preacher, James and his wife Deborah prayed with Derek and Lindsay before the C-Section procedure and we joined Derek and Lindsay and the family again to thank God for Benjamin’s life after he was gone.  I held his tiny lifeless body for a few minutes before handing him back to his dad and I looked around the hospital room filled with a faithful Christian family grieving this horrible loss while at the same time celebrating the miracle of life – even a 90 minute life.  This family walks the walk and talk is just meaningless.  At that moment, I realized I have been blessed by Benjamin’s presence in my life.

Doris lived a full life of almost 93 years with no regrets and an empty bucket list.  Adam is just hitting his stride at 21 years old with an entire adult life ahead.  In Benjamin’s 90 minute life, his only experience was basking in the warmth of his family’s love.  Other than a common date on the calendar tying them randomly together what else do they have in common?

Although difficult for us to comprehend – especially when faced with the drastic difference between 93 years and 90 minutes – we all need to remember life is a fragile and fleeting thing.  The Apostle James describes life in James 4:14 as a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  We need to make the most of every moment God gives us.

The other striking thing for me today was the reminder of the miracle of life.  King David wrote these words of praise to the creator in his beautiful Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts;
  you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
  my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
  intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
  the days that were formed for me,
  when as yet there was none of them.

Doris was wonderfully made and allotted almost 93 years of life before her frail body gave up.  Even in those last days, she refused to quit until her checklist was completed and final words were delivered to kids and grandkids.  Adam is living life in full because of the amazing redundancy God designed into our renal systems.  What a blessing to have a backup kidney when one fails.  Even little Benjamin was wonderfully made for his brief life.  I don’t know why God’s plan for him was so short and incomplete by my standards.  I do see the blessings he brought into the lives of his family, but only 90 minutes?  In the midst of my lack of understanding, I still have to look at those tiny features and the picture of him holding onto his dad’s finger and just praise God for his marvelous creation.

The reason I can praise God even in my confusion is because of the most important common thread – our eternal destination.  I have no doubt about Doris’ destination.  She preached a sermon with her life and made her heavenly destination plain to everyone who knew her.  She died without fear certain that her faith in her Savior would deliver her safely to a family reunion in heaven.  Adam’s life is kicking into high gear headed in the right direction courtesy of a faithful home and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  And little Benjamin is home with the Father tonight.

Life is short but so very sweet.  Regardless of how short – whether 90 minutes or 90 years – it is just a mist compared to eternity.  No matter how sweet this life may be – whether 90 minutes of pure family love or 90 years of life’s ups-n-downs – it cannot compare with the bliss of heaven.  Doris and Benjamin – what do they have in common?  Let’s ask them when we see them.

Until next week,

Pray for Derek and Lindsay!


  1. What a beautiful tribute to thses three lives! I couldn’t have been said any better, Mike!

  2. Beautiful words and thoughts, Mike. Thank you for sharing these people with us and I’m grateful that you, Kristal, James, Deb and others from our McDermott family were able to be there with Derek, Lindsay and Benjamin yesterday.

  3. Mike tears welled in my eyes after reading of the loss that Derek and Lindsay had to experience in their life…… is a walk many of us have not and should not experience…….and for those who have I know they recognize that life is but the passing of a shadow or a blade of grass coming up in the morning and withering away at night, more important for those who have been spared losing a loved too early in their life how they live it to its fullest.

    I personally have experienced the loss of my wife 23 years ago, I was not prepared for it by any books I read and it was a hard adjustment, but what I can recall and share is that it seemed like just yesterday, and the message that you shared “of the miracle of life ” should not be taken lightly, it is beautiful and I try to live everyday enjoying it and doing a good deed.

  4. Thank you Michael. That was beautiful. I cried. I praise God for my miracle baby everyday. That baby has grown into a wonderful young man. I am so glad he has role models like you in his life. You and Kristal mean the world to us. I love you.
    Elizabeth (Adam’s mom)

  5. What a great tribute to three lives, so alike and so different. I get the life Mom lived for God, I get the blessings that have been Adam`s to experience and his reaction to those blessings, but it is really hard to understand baby Benjamin`s brief life. I grieve for the empty arms of his Mom and Dad and the hole in their hearts. Thank you for your unique insight. I love you.

  6. Once again Mike you touched our hearts with words so profound and meaningful. Your grandmother left a legacy that will never be forgotten. You are a lucky man to have had such a wonderful person in your life. I hope one day my children and grandchildren can say that about me ( I doubt it) but I have been inspired by these people. I am sure the Lord will bless the Crites with another child that will be healthy and as for Adam, a remarkable young man and I will pray that he lives his life for God due to your example and friendhsip from your spiritual and encouraging family. You and Kristal have a great job in rearing your children. God bless you all.

  7. What wonderful thoughts you have! Thank you for sharing. Psalms 139 has always been one of my favorites.

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