Loss in our community – praying for God’s mercies

Published 5:53 pm Saturday, February 11, 2023

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Every week as I write my column “From the Mayor’s Desk,” I look forward to sharing all of the positive news happening in our special city on the Bluff. This week as I write, however, my heart is heavy for those who have suffered recent loss in our community. Recent headlines have been difficult to read.

In late January, a beloved young teacher from Natchez’ McLaurin Elementary passed away unexpectedly. Kimberly McKnight was loved by all who knew her, and her passion for her “inclusion” students will forever be remembered.

Last week, completely without warning, long-time Natchez Public Works employee Michael Jackson passed away, just one month after losing his house in a Christmas Eve fire. Mike was beloved by so many, and during our last visit he shared his appreciation for so many in Natchez who had rallied to help him. I’ll never forget his beautiful smile.

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Just last Sunday, the Natchez-Adams County School District lost another dedicated friend and former administrator, Dr. Ruby As-Sabor to a tragic house fire. Dr. Ruby had retired in 2021 as Director of Special Services and was known for her love and advocacy for students with special needs.

Also last week, Natchez-Adams County Resident James Willard Calhoun was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking in a dark area along Morgantown Road, underscoring the need for renovations to this road which are soon to be happening. Mr. Calhoun was someone well-known to the residents in the rural area where he lived.

And to add further sadness to the news of late, as of this writing a gentleman known for his work ethic and kind manner, Donny Mitchell, fell into the Mississippi River Tuesday while working on a barge, and search teams still have not recovered his body. Also in the news: the near death experience of individuals involved in a head-on collision last weekend that occurred out in the Kingston community has concerned many. Mr. Mitchell’s family, and the victims of this collision, have a special place in our prayers.

It is in times like this that I have no choice but to turn to my faith and the promises God has for us. “I look to the hills from whence cometh my help”, as the Psalmist writes, and in due time, that comfort does come.

Over 30 years ago when I lost my mother to cancer, I went through a challenging time. It was through that experience that I lived out the truth of God’s word in Lamentations: “His mercies are new each and every morning.” Without the daily supply of His new mercies, shown to me in the kindness of others, I don’t know what I would have done.

While we all would prefer I’m sure to read the happy articles, it is in times like this that we as a community need to pause and consider our neighbors and friends who are suffering loss. We should be the “hands and feet” of God as we not only pray for them but minister kindness and compassion to them.

May God grant extra fresh mercies to these who are hurting in our midst. May we continually thank him for the beautiful community we call home, taking note of those things that are most important, and using this time to re-focus on the ways in which we can love and give. In my heart I know this is where true healing takes place and where joy eventually overcomes sorrow. I thank God for Natchez and the beautiful people of this special place. May God continue to bless. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.