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What It Looks Like to Give Your Life Away

Have you ever heard Zeke Bookman play the piano? One of my fondest memories in my short time at Bethel was when my daughter and I visited Zeke at his home. As he was showing us around I noticed his piano and asked if he played.  He said yes and I asked if he could play something for us. He graciously agreed and I have to tell you I was blown away. It was like my  daughter and I were privileged to have a private concert by some sort of piano prodigy. It was wonderful. I asked Zeke if he would play for the church sometime and he’s been able to bless us on several occasions with his gift of music. Maybe you know Zeke through his music, but I wonder if you know the rest of his story?
Five months after Zeke was born he developed double pneumonia. At that time only a few drugs were available to fight the disease. Zeke says, “My doctor prescribed mustard plaster and a vest was made of  mustard plaster and applied to my chest. I don’t recall how long this treatment lasted but the doctor told my mother that he expected to see a black crepe on the front door each time he visited, denoting that I had died.” The treatments worked and Zeke survived the double pneumonia.
Zeke Bookman
Fast forward to adulthood where Zeke attended Oak Grove Baptist Church. Zeke said that over the years “most of my friends moved from Oak Grove to  Bon Air Baptist. One of the couples that moved to Bon Air knew a lady named Doris whose husband had died. My friends felt I might be interested in meeting Doris. Arrangements were made and we met at my friend’s home for dinner. Someone picked up Doris but I drove her home and was searching for a way to ask for another date. When we opened the door to her home I noticed a cuckoo clock that was not running. I repaired clocks so I offered to repair the clock, knowing I would manage to get another date. It was love at first sight. Then I met Doris’ two daughters, Betty and Pamela, and was really hooked by two of the sweetest and kindest daughters.” Zeke went on to marry Doris and become father to her two daughters.
I reached out to Betty and asked her if she had a thought or two to share about Zeke’s story and here’s what she said, “My sister and I have been blessed to have two earthly fathers. Our birth father, William Wyatt Ellett, died at age 39 in February 1960 leaving behind his wife Doris, 35 and daughters Pam, 5, and Betty 16. As time passed, God intervened through Marie and Oscar  Johnson who introduced Mother to their long time friend, Zeke Bookman. Zeke fell in love with the “love of his life” and married our Mother in June 1961 and took on our ready made family with daughters then 7 and 18. After retiring from his service in the Virginia National Guard our dad took on the care of our mother during the final year of her life when she was quite ill and on oxygen. An example of his care included    serving meals to her in bed with a rose on the tray and playing the piano for her while she ate.  Hospice could learn a thing or two from him.  We lost mom in March  of 1988 at age 63.”
 “In a world of poor examples of love and commitment our dad has set an exemplary example of what it means to be a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.  He recently paid me the greatest compliment of my life when he said, ‘Betty, if I had given birth to you and Pam I could not have asked for two more loving, caring, devoted daughters.  His life has always reflected his values of God first, family, friends and country next.  We thank God for him and every day we are blessed to have him!!!”
I wanted to share Zeke’s story for two reasons. First, it’s a great example of the providence of God. Over 90 years ago the Lord saved Zeke from double pneumonia and then led Zeke to meet and marry Doris. Zeke’s story reminds me that God is constantly at work in our lives, often in hidden ways and through unusual circumstances. Take the cuckoo clock incident for example.  Was Zeke’s knowledge of clock repair divinely inspired?  Zeke cleverly used that knowledge to secure a second  date with Doris! Let’s trust that God is at work in all areas of our lives. The second reason I share Zeke’s story is this: Zeke was saved from pneumonia for a purpose and Jesus tells us that our purpose is found through the giving away of our own lives in the service of others. Zeke gave his life to care for his wife and his daughters.  He gives his life away by  using his talent to play the piano for us at Bethel. Here’s what Zeke has to say about his life, “Providence must have led me to propose to Doris and for her to let me be a part of her and her children’s lives. We were able to celebrate our 25th Anniversary before Doris died. I am thankful I was chosen to take on the role of husband and father.”
I am thankful for people like Zeke for giving us an example of what it looks like to give our lives away and I’m thankful that God is always at work in our lives, even though we may not see or notice. May God bless Zeke and his family and may God bless Bethel Baptist church as we continue to give our lives away in the service of others.

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