This is part one of a series about Cora who was admitted to hospice with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. On second thought, this story isn’t about Cora; it’s about someone who has been a tremendous inspiration and encouragement to Cora.
When I met Cora I asked what she enjoyed and she replied, “I watch HGTV; I’m kind of burned out on “Fixer Upper”, now I watch, “The Property Brothers”, and “Love it or List it”. And I just love Michael Combs. I loved him as soon as I saw him. I’ve been to at least twenty-five of his concerts. My kids watched me instead of Michael because they wanted to see my expression, how happy I was. He just encourages me. I feel better when I am around him. He connects with people; he talks to you; he’s broken and humble.” I told Cora that I’d seen his posters around town for years and always wondered “Who in the world is that guy?” Then Cora suggested, “When he comes back around here you need to go see him?” I told Cora that if he did, I would, and that I would take her with me. Cora replied, “I’d go!”
When Cora was in our hospice inpatient center for a respite stay, I met with Cora and her close friend Mary. They reminisced about their love of “Michael”; about following his ministry together for over twenty years. Mary estimated that she had attended over one-hundred concerts and Cora thirty to forty. Cora discovered Michael on JOY FM and explained, “I loved Michael as soon as I heard him. I called the radio station to request his music so often that they would ask me, ‘Didn’t you hear us play that just an hour ago?’ and I would just tell them, ‘Then play it again!”
Mary and her husband have become close friends with Michael and his family and Mary is his unofficial local promoter. Mary shared, “Michael performs all over the country and Canada, but he’s not a good one to interview because he won’t talk about himself. He gets embarrassed.” Cora interjected, “It’s real, and he’s real. It’s not about Michael, it’s about Jesus.” Mary continued, “People will go to see Michael who won’t go to church. Outcasts relate to him and the unsaved feel it and they become his promoters. Michael always says when he’s heading to a concert, ‘I’m going fishin. I’m going fishin for men.’ My brother-in-law Jack was really rough. He was a bad dude. He had the reputation that he would go crazy on you. He wouldn’t step foot into a church, but he went to one of Michael’s concerts and the door to his heart was opened and he came back home a changed man. Jack considered himself that “Big Fish” that everyone wants to catch. He had cancer and he said, ‘I would just as soon be buried in a Michael Combs tee-shirt’; he was and it read, “Gone Fishin.” Mary concluded, “Anyone who lets God use them will draw people who nobody else can get to.”
Michael’s wife, Denise, sent me a recently updated bio on Michael and following are excerpts: “After squandering many years of his life…and nearly destroying his life with drugs and alcohol, something wonderful happened in the life of Michael Combs…or better yet someone wonderful happened in the life of Michael Combs to give him life. His name is Jesus. Michael gave his life to Christ…at a revival in Jacksonville, Florida on February 6th, 1989… Almost immediately God put Michael into a ministry of music… There have been some valleys during the three decades of traveling on the road…he’s had four major surgeries…He was dying of liver disease when the Lord rescued him…God not only saved his soul and placed within him a new heart, He also gave Michael a new liver… Michael had a liver transplant in 1991… Unfortunately the anti-rejection drugs destroyed his kidneys. Michael… continued to minister for over a year… while waiting on that new kidney…Some even thought he was crazy with only 8% kidney function going to Nashville and recording his 20th album, “I Can Trust Him”. On January 9, 2017 Michael received a drastically needed kidney… Combs said God blessed him in an unbelievable way… He received the 2018 AGM Awards Music Video of the year, “Good Versus Evil”. This year he received the 2019 AGM Awards Fan Favorite Artist of the Year.”
Cora and I struggled to pinpoint what it was about Michael, and I realized that Cora identified it the first time we talked, “He’s broken and he’s humble.” King David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart,” (Psalm 51:17). You see, sometimes it’s the broken who are better able to reach and minister to the broken.
In case you wondered, Michael came back to town, and Cora’s hospice nurse, Amy, and I met Cora and her daughter, Tammy, at the concert. I met Michael and told him that the reason I came was because I wanted to meet the man who had been such an encouragement to Cora. And I discovered that Mary was right when she told me, “He’s not a good one to interview because he won’t talk about himself. He gets embarrassed.”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.