His heart just stopped.

There was no warning.

No time to yell out for help. Suddenly, everything went black.

Mark Russell–one of the officials, a city councilman, and my dear friend–crumpled over, lifeless, on the sideline of the football field in the Madison Academy-McCallie game, August 25th.

I sat in the stands, watching in horror, as someone I’ve known since childhood received CPR. Paulette Berryman, a cardiac care nurse, happened to be standing nearby. Immediately, she started resuscitating him. Glen Laird, who was working in the press box, prayed for Mark over the loud speaker.

Players, coaches and the other referees hit their knees. An eerie silence fell over the crowd as we watched the EMT techs and Paulette work feverishly to restart Mark’s heart.

After two tremendous, body-wrenching shocks with a defibrillator, Mark suddenly gasped, drawing in a deep, life-saving breath as his heart began to beat again. It was as if he came back to life. The crowd cheered. People began to hug each other. Sighs of relief, coupled with tears, echoed through the stands.

Later that night, a blockage was removed from Mark’s artery at Huntsville Hospital. I went to see him the next morning. He was feeling good and pretty amazed at what had happened. “Had there not been a nurse and a defibrillator within a few feet of me, I probably wouldn’t have made it,” Mark said.

Now, Mark is feeling great. Recently, I met him in a coffee shop to talk about his experience. I feared that my questions might make Mark uncomfortable, but he was refreshingly open and honest. Gratitude for life and for the help he received radiated from his face. “I don’t mind sharing about what happened to me,” Mark said. “I want to use it for good.”

His positive attitude gave me the courage to ask him something I really needed to know.

What did you learn the day you died?

Mark thought about it for a few minutes as the busy coffee shop hummed. The cappuccino machine gurgled with steam. A baby started to cry. I began to fidget awkwardly, thinking, maybe that question was a little too personal.

Finally he smiled and said, “I learned to live ready.”

“You mean to live ready to meet your Maker? Right?” I asked.

“No.” Mark said. “I’ve been right with my Maker for years and my faith in Him is strong. I meant that I want to live ready with people.”

“The day I dropped dead, I wasn’t ready. There were some things I needed to make right, and a few apologies to give, but mostly, I needed to say thank you to a lot of people who have contributed to my life. Living ready means telling friends and family how much I appreciate what they do and how they have blessed me. It means telling people how much I admire them. It means cheering others on. I hadn’t expressed these things enough.”

“If I were to drop dead today—and believe me, we aren’t even guaranteed today—I’m ready.”

I sat there, totally in awe of his message, realizing that it was just what I needed to hear—to live ready.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good reminder for us all to first, live ready with our Maker:

Accept the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (John 5:24)

Live a life of love toward God and man. (2 John 1:6)

Seek God’s face every day; live in close proximity to His heart. (Heb. 11:6) I’ve written an entire book about this called, Seeking a Familiar Face.

And also, to live ready with people:

• We do things wrong everyday. Let’s be quick to apologize.
• Lonely people are everywhere. Write a letter; make a visit or a call.
• People are really struggling. Let’s help them carry their load.
• We’ve all been offended recently. Let’s forgive and move on.
• Family and friends contribute to our lives everyday. Let’s thank each one.
• Many people are in need. Let’s respond generously with open hands.
• There are so many to love. Say, “I love you,” often.

As I walked away from the coffee shop that day, I had a spring in my step and a full heart. Mark reminded me how precious this life is—and how brief. He taught me how important it is to live ready.

Possibly, today could be my (and your) last opportunity to do so.

“The holidays are a great time to start living ready.” Mark said, “You don’t have to drop dead to learn this lesson. Start today.”











Six weeks after Mark’s heart attack, Mark, his wife April (right), and Paulette Berryman(left) were honored at a Madison Academy football game. Mark conducted the coin toss and then expressed his gratitude to Paulette and to the many other people who helped him.

Thank you for your example, Mark. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!



Mark received his copy of my new book, Seeking a Familiar Face. Have you? Now is the perfect time! I’m running a Thanksgiving special: A FREE devotion collection to subscribers who purchase a book now through Cyber Monday, 11/27/17!



To order my book from Amazon, click here. It’s also available at Golden Griffin Antiques & Gifts, in Huntsville, and at Old River Antiques in Decatur, AL.

Email me at hello@maypatterson.com, tell me when and where you purchased a book and I’ll send you the devo collection (PDF) for FREE! Print as many as you want. Send it to a student. Give it as a gift. Use it for family devotions.