It’s truly a privilege to be a pastor because my work allows me to meet some exceptional people who inspire my faith. One such person is Bobby Brooks. Bobby is the cousin of long time Bethel member Robert Brooks. Bobby was born on November 9th, 1946 and he was born with Cerebral Palsy. Bobby has been in a wheel chair nearly his entire life. His father was a military man and Bobby spent his younger years moving around the world as his dad’s duty station changed. Bobby lived in Germany, San Francisco, New Orleans and then the family moved to Florida when his dad retired. Bobby went to schools that could accommodate his special needs and he is a high school graduate. Robert says, “Bobby is smart. He can do the Jumble in the daily paper with no problem and that’s something I struggle to complete.”
As Bobby’s parents aged they decided to move back to Richmond to be closer to family. As time went on Bobby’s disease worsened and it became more difficult for his parents to give him the care he needed. So when Bobby turned 40 his family moved him into the Lucy Coor Nursing Facility. When he first went to Lucy Coor Bobby could feed himself and he had some mobility as he could maneuver his wheel chair. He immersed himself in daily life at Lucy Coor. He acted in several plays and he was once voted “King” of Lucy Coor. He also took some art classes at John Tyler and was able to go swimming at Camp Baker. Bobby didn’t allow his disease to get in the way of experiencing life. Time marched on and Bobby’s father passed away in 1993 and his mother passed in 1996. At that point Robert took on the role of Bobby’s guardian. Robert and his wife, Donna, visited Bobby regularly. They watched movies with Bobby, ate with him, and took him to doctor and dentist appointments.
Bobby’s disease continued to progress and he got to the point he could no longer wheel himself around so he got an electric wheelchair. This was a huge blessing for many years as it allowed Bobby some freedom of mobility. Eventually the disease took that away as well. Bobby is now 72 years old and is confined to his bed. Most days are spent in his room with an open door facing the hallway so he can watch people walk the halls of Lucy Coor. He no longer has use of his hands so someone has to feed him, bathe him, and take care of any other needs he may have.
Think about this: Bobby needs someone to help him scratch an itch or adjust his pillow or blanket. Simply put, Bobby’s body is broken, but his spirit is alive and well. Bobby is a person of faith and he has a rich prayer life. Robert says that on numerous occasions he’d go visit Bobby and he’d enter the room and find Bobby in prayer. Bobby would welcome Robert, but then tell him, “Hold on a moment, I’m not finished praying.” Bobby prays for the Lucy Coor staff, its residents, and he prays for his family.
I’ve been able to pray with Bobby on several occasions. One such occasion inspired the writing of this article. I visited Bobby with our Associate Pastor, Gayle Taylor. At the end of our visit we asked Bobby how we could pray for him. Bobby listed several things and among them was that he wanted to pray for his dinner to arrive a little earlier in the day. They started serving him dinner at 6:30 p.m. recently and he used to eat around 5 so by 6:30 he’s starving. Gayle and I prayed and after we prayed Bobby looked at us and said, “The Lord has been wonderful to me!” I found those words to be so inspiring.
Bobby has impacted my faith and he’s impacted Robert’s faith as well. I asked Robert how his relationship with Bobby has affected his faith and he said, “Well, first of all, I don’t think of Bobby as a cousin anymore, he’s more like my brother. So the Lord has brought us closer together. I’ve also learned that as you get older, your reliance on the Lord grows because there are many things in life you cannot control, you just have to rely on the Lord. So Bobby has helped me to see that even though there are difficulties in life, the Lord is always there with you, holding your hand as you live your life.” Amen to that Robert.
Life is full of difficulties. Life is full of brokenness, but God is there, ever present, always faithful. When we reflect on this perhaps you and I can say, along with Bobby, “The Lord has been wonderful to me!” This confession of praise can be traced all the way back to the Cross of Calvary. Christ went to the cross to pay for our sins, to reconcile us to God, to offer us grace and forgiveness that we didn’t deserve and could never earn. When we reflect on this we truly can say “God has been wonderful to me!”
Let’s let Bobby’s confession of praise be on our lips all of April as we celebrate Easter together at Bethel. I hope that you’ll be able to join us for our Maundy Thursday Service, or our Good Friday Lenten Lunch, and I especially hope to see you on Easter Sunday where we all gather together to sing and worship because God truly has been wonderful to us all. May God bless Bobby, Robert and Donna Brooks and may God bless our Bethel Church Family. Happy Easter! He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!