Archived Story

Manager saddened by Brother Mike’s passing

Published 4:06pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sometimes life can really throw you some curves. Sometimes those curves come without any warning and can change your disposition in a heartbeat.

Last Saturday evening I was sitting in my parent’s living room in Cullman enjoying the post-game coverage of the Iron Bowl. All the members of my immediate family are huge Alabama fans, so needless to say we were all enjoying the Tide’s big win.  I had just sat down on the couch after a big steak dinner and was ready to watch some more football with the people I love most in the world. Considering my stomach was full and my favorite college football team had just defeated its greatest rival, my outlook on life at that moment could not have been better.

That’s when the phone rang.

It was my Aunt LaVonne and she had some bad news.

Last July her husband, Joe, had died after a long illness. His passing was both heartbreaking and glorious. To be sure, his family misses him dearly, but those who witnessed his demeanor at the end found hope in his beliefs and especially his actions.

Joe just didn’t “believe” in God in a superficial way, like most of us do when we go to church and profess things we really don’t mean. He actually lived out his belief to the very end and died clinging to the cross, something I hope I can do when the time comes.

Someone who witnessed my uncle’s passing was Mike Starrick, the preacher who presided over the funeral. Joe and Mike were good friends for many years, having both served as pastors in the Church of God denomination for decades.

Brother Mike was with Joe and his family at the end and I have been told he was nothing short of a blessing to them throughout the ordeal.

I met Mike a few days later at the funeral and I was impressed as well, especially with his kind and loving disposition. Meeting him was like saying hello to a good friend you hadn’t seen in a while, a true pleasure to be around.

I was even more impressed with his sermon and could tell it came from the depths of his soul. Plus, just like any good Church of God preacher, I discovered Mike could flat out sing a gospel song. His rendition of “Beulah Land” during the service sent cold chills down my spine. After hearing it, I felt ready to go home myself.

Regrettably, we found out after the Iron Bowl that Mike went home after dying of a heart attack. He was only 57.

When LeVonne called with this terrible news, we were all in shock. How could a vibrant and caring man we had grown to respect in such a short time suddenly be taken away? To be honest, I felt somehow cheated, as if God had done something wrong. It seemed terribly unfair for this to happen.

Suddenly, the good feeling about the game was replaced with a deep sense of sorrow and loss. Questions about existence, meaning and ultimate purposes swirled in my mind. Alabama’s victory didn’t seem so important after all.

I know many of you have experienced feelings such as these when losing a loved one or a close friend. I wish I could tell you I resolved all of the questions and doubts in my mind, but I have not. Nevertheless, I’m still trying.

However, I do get the feeling that both Joe and Mike are looking down at me while singing “The Anchor Holds” at full voice.

What a great song. What a great vision to contemplate in difficult times.

I guess belief truly is about grasping on to the anchor line of faith, even when there is every reason to simply give up and let the storm drag you away to oblivion.

Mike’s passing has awakened a deeper sense of the meaning of faith in my mind and maybe that’s one small reason why God called Mike home on Saturday.  It seems so unfair, but some good has come from it. Maybe his passing will awaken something in you as well, especially when those curves are coming at you in unexpected ways.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.