By L Parker Brown on June 30, 2019
By L Parker Brown on June 16, 2019
I wrote the entry below in my journal on May 11, 2014, the night before Mother’s Day, weeks before my ailing mother died, and days after her doctor called my siblings and me to his office to tell us what I had already presumed. (The fact that this is being published on Father’s Day is coincidental.)
Mother’s cancer had returned after three years in remission and a few months following her breast surgery. It was terminal. Her doctor said that chemo and other interventive efforts to prolong her life had been exhausted. The ire that led me to express angry feelings in my journal later that evening was not the result of the doctor’s disclosure. I became enraged after my sister told me over the phone that she and our mother were writing down service arrangements for mother’s funeral.
I knew that my exclusion from the planning was intentional because my sister and mother were members of the same religious organization and I purposely have no membership with any organized religion. The deliberate slight led me during that telephone conversation to decide that I would not attend my mother’s funeral. (Circumstances, which I’ll later explain, changed my mind. I did attend the funeral. My sister did not.)
My sister, brothers, and I each dealt with my mother’s pending death in our own way. I, as I often do, wrote through my pain, confiding and psychologically transferring my feelings to my private journal. Now, as the fifth anniversary of mother’s death approaches on June 18, I’ve decided to share, in my public journal, a condensed version of the entry I wrote on that Mother’s Day eve. For me revealing these thoughts and pent up emotions is cathartic. Others may see it differently, and that’s okay. And as much as I know I should resist saying this about that; I’m going to say it anyway – Whatever.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. What a time to be writing this.
I won’t be attending mother’s funeral. People will wonder why — let them. While the service is underway, I will be here, at home, feeling a lot of things, but guilt will not be one of those emotions. I’ll probably be reminiscing.
Like every good mother, mom instilled pearls of wisdom in her children as she and dad raised the four of us. She never stopped giving us advice, even when we were adults. I remember following frequent news reports about the Jim Jones tragedy in Guyana that dominated the airways, mother and I had many conversations about how easily people are lured into cults. “Stay away from them,” she cautioned.
I detest the fact that mother ultimately disregarded her own advice when she joined an organization that in my opinion, is nothing less. Her decision curtailed our family gatherings and resulted in our family becoming distant in the past few years. I imagine that once mother leaves us we will be more estranged.
So often I think about family gatherings that we enjoyed at mom and dad’s home on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas until her conversion changed that. I miss those get-togethers. What kind of religious organization restricts members’ from participating in what they call “worldly” activities, birthdays included? How crazy is that?
They like to take control. Mother let them take over her life, and I will always believe that she ultimately came to regret it, though she would never admit it. Dad tolerated them because of mother but he turned a deaf ear to her request that he join a study group and he refused otherwise to have anything to do with the organization. He and I sometimes discussed the irony of the situation. How unfortunate that when he died in August 2006, mother invited them to eulogize his funeral. I don’t think I will ever get over that. It’s part of the reason that I cried so hard at dad’s funeral. I’m still pissed-off about it because I felt that dad was disrespected. If he could have sat up in his casket, pushed the lid off and said, “Hold it one damn minute. I’m not going out like this. Not like this.” He would have.
Although he didn’t regularly attend church, he was a protestant, not one of — them. When arrangements were being made for dad’s funeral, I told mother that I wanted one hymn included in the program. Just one. My favorite, “Amazing Grace.” She told me that was considered to be a pagan song. Therefore it wasn’t allowed. Well, darn, dad and I were both pagans then, weren’t we?
Since mother has assigned my sister to oversee her funeral arrangements, I am certain that I will not be asked if I have any input. Just the same, I am going to keep insisting that the program include the congregation singing Amazing Grace. The same song that I wanted sang at my dad’s funeral. Nevertheless, this woman persists.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says that “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” I studied with the organization for a brief period even before my mother did. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted no part of any group that manages its members with what I consider nothing less than mind control. I’d say that exposure gives me props for knowing something about which I speak. Against the protest by my then friend with whom I was studying, I refused to succumb to the brainwashing and, I quit the sessions.
My presence at mother’s funeral would serve no purpose. Feeling as I do now, resentment would most likely lead me to show my annoyance during the service for the group that I feel stole my mother from our family long ago.
They profess to be nonjudgmental, yet they judge others every day, especially people who they label as pagans because pagans are of different faiths and are “of the world.” They spew a lot of hogwash about how they cannot fraternize with people of the world. Oh? Where the hell do they think they are on Mars?
I don’t see where they exclude themselves from taking part in worldly things – except those things they don’t want to participate in like jury duty or the armed services. Then, they quickly become religious objectors — if you can call it that. They cheer for their favorite sports teams. They buy worldly convinces like automobiles and computers. They’ve even put their literature on the Internet. Are those not worldly things? And just like numerous other “Christians” some of them fornicate, lie, and commit crimes; and then they try to justify the bastardly deeds of their corrupt members by saying, “Oh that person was not truly one of us.” How many times have I heard that used to justify a wayward sheep?
I mourn for the person that my mother used to be. I feel that she was taken away from me a long time ago even though she had not yet left this earth. I have my peace, knowing that she will no longer be under their control. I hope that she has her peace.
An organization that philosophizes to its members that they are God’s chosen while putting other religions down is, in my opinion, hypocritical. Granted — it is every person’s choice to be a member of whatever religious group they choose – or to be a member of none. But what peeves me is when one religious organization condemns others while claiming that theirs is the only “truth.”
Ultimately, I did attend my mother’s funeral. It was my sister who chose not to do so. The unplanned situation that resulted in mother’s funeral arrangements being left to me by my sister was the result of some tense, back-and-forth conversation between us over my insistence that Amazing Grace be sung during the service. The minister my mother had requested perform the service strongly objected to including that hymn or any hymn associated with pagan religion and informed me through my sister that he would refuse to administer the funeral if I persisted. I did. In turn, my sister also refused to have anything to do with making the arrangements or attending the service.
You see her faith advises members against taking part in what they consider services associated with a “false religion.” A funeral is considered a religious service because it may include such practices as the congregation joining in prayer with a “worldly” minister or priest who is not of their faith, and God-forbid the funeral be held in a church. Mother’s was held in a funeral home.
People who purport yourselves to be God’s children — check yourselves.
By L Parker Brown on May 8, 2019
My iPhone died. The official cause of death was drowning. When I told that to the sales consultant at the mobile phone store he didn’t raise an eyebrow. I guess he had heard the story of the big slash before.
I’ve owned an iPhone for several years. Before I had the smartphone, I had a few dumb ones. Never in the history of my mobile phone life have I dropped a phone. Not the brick size. Not the flip top. I’ve dropped calls but never dropped a phone – until I did. That adds credence to the truth that there is a first time for everything.
It wasn’t so much that I dropped the phone or how I dropped it. It didn’t slip out of my hand, bounce on the table top, and then slide to the floor cracking the screen like an egg on the sidewalk. No, nothing that sanitized. I dropped the phone in the toilet.
Before you gross-out, it wasn’t like what you may be thinking. And technically, I didn’t drop it.
Let me explain.
Whenever I leave home, I rarely carry my cell phone in a purse. I fear that if the purse gets snatched the bad guy will have one of the three most valuable items that I carry. Instead, of putting the phone in my purse, since I almost always wear jeans with deep pockets, my phone is usually tucked in one front pocket, my wallet and keys are in the other. Only when jeans are inappropriate for whatever event I am attending do I carry those three items in a purse.
The one place I never, EVER carry my phone is in my back pocket. I’ve seen other people do it and I always think how easy it would be for a pick-pocket to bump them from behind and take the phone before they realize it’s gone. (To outsmart criminals you must learn to think like one.)
Recently, I purchased a new pair of jeans online. I liked the fit and the color. The only thing I disliked was the short front pockets. The back pockets had plenty of depth. But there was no way I could tuck my phone snuggly into either of the front pockets no matter which way I turned it.
I made a mental note to call the retailer from whom I purchased the trademark jeans or leave a review on the website making it known that the pockets are too short for my liking. I hope that enough complaints from different people about the same issue might prompt a change in the pockets because I like the jeans.
Now you are probably wondering what do jeans have to do with my iPhone so I’ll get to the point.
I was preparing to go out one day and was wearing the new jeans. As I rushed around tidying up the place and trying to make sure that I didn’t forget anything, I temporarily stuck the iPhone in my back pocket knowing that I would remove it and place it in my backpack purse before leaving home. But then I forgot it was there.
Just before heading out the door I tell myself that I’d better answer nature’s call. (I’m sure you readers are ahead of me now and know what happened, but for those who may be a little slow, here’s the deal).
I go into the bathroom, pull down my jeans and as I am preparing to sit on the throne I hear “plop.” I know – before I even turn around to look – that the phone has slipped out of my back pocket and somersaulted into the toilet.
My immediate reaction is to grab the phone from the clear water, wrap it in paper towels and then shake it. Shake. Shake. Shake. Get that water out of there. After several seconds, I unfold the paper towels and look anxiously at the screen. A sigh of relief. It looks fine. All of the colorful icons are there. Yes! I saved it. Or, so I thought – until seconds later, right before my eyes the icons all dissolve. In their place are squiggly horizontal lines on a pale background. After a few seconds, more lines appear, and then poof! the screen turns black. “Nooooooo!” I scream in my head. Watching a phone die can be traumatic.
I snatch more paper towels off the roll and rewrap the phone, shaking it again several times. Before discarding the paper towels, I look at the screen. Nothing but blackness. I slide my finger across the place where the “slide to turn off” message usually appears. Nothing, again. And then suddenly, the flashlight pops on, and I think, “Now, we’re getting somewhere.”
Wrong! Although the light on the back of the phone is glowing brightly, the face of the phone remains dark. I stare at it, wishing that I could rewind the hands of time back about 5 minutes, to seconds before my phone took a dump.
The phone light glows brighter and the brighter the light gets the warmer the phone feels in my hand. Using the little button on the side of the phone I switch it, trying to do a hard shut off. Nothing, again.
I suddenly remember stories I’ve read about exploding phones, and at that moment fear sets in as I think drop the phone and run for cover. I didn’t want to drop the phone and risk setting my place on fire, so I run with the phone to the kitchen. I lay the phone on the counter and from the cabinet, I grab a small ziplock bag and a bag of balsamic rice. (No, I did not take time to look for the cheaper bag of rice because I didn’t know how much time I had before the phone would go kaboom!) I put the still glowing phone into the plastic bag, quickly pour rice over it, place the potential explosive in a small pot, cover the pot with a lid, back away and wait for the explosion that I fear is imminent. I am hoping that the blast will stay contained within the pot.
I have read that if you place a wet cell phone into rice, it will dry it out and save your phone. After a few minutes of nervously waiting, I lean back so the phone will not explode in my face as I extend my arm and slowly lift the lid from the pot. I peek inside. The phone flashlight has dimmed significantly, but it has not gone out. I touch the phone through the bag. It is cooling down. After a few more minutes the light goes out.
I conjure up enough nerve to remove the rice-bagged phone from the pot. Hopeful that I have resuscitated it, I try turning the phone on. No luck. I make a few more attempts before placing the phone back in its plastic bag coffin. Then, I get an old, tiny purse from the closet and place the zip-bagged phone into the purse and the purse inside my backpack. I sling it over my shoulder and head out the door.
Since I was planning to go downtown even before the phone mishap, I decided that while I was down there, I would buy a new phone. It was a several hundred dollar expense that I had not planned for, nor budgeted.
When I walked into the mobile phone store, the clerk greeted me, “How can I help you today?”
“My phone drowned,” I said somberly. I didn’t overshare information with him as I did with you readers, I just told him that I accidentally dropped the phone into water and let him imagine the rest. Then, I pulled the phone out of my backpack to show. “I riced it,” I said. “But I still can’t turn it on.”
“First of all,” he said. “That’s not enough rice. You need to completely cover the phone in rice and let it sit for about 48 hours to thoroughly dry out. There’s still no guarantee that will work. And if you can’t turn it on now, it’s likely short-circuited, i.e., totally dead.” I did not say what I was thinking — smart ass.
I brought a new phone. The only good thing to come out of the debacle is that I was able to retrieve all my phone contacts, photos, etc. because I had saved that info in the iCloud. I only started saving in the cloud about a month ago. That was clearly a predestined move.
According to the Daily Info website “nearly 1 in 10 people have dropped their phones in the toilet.” Let my experience be a warning to you. Avoid carrying your phone anywhere near water. And never, EVER carry your phone in your back pocket.
By L Parker Brown on April 21, 2019
If you are a churchgoer, enjoy the service. I am spiritual but stopped going to church long ago. However, on Easter Sunday, I often reflect on how it was when my siblings and I were children.
From the time I turned six years old and my sister four, she and I were required to go to Sunday school nearly every Sunday and to church almost as often. Until they grew older, my younger brothers were too little to make the block-long walk with us, so they stayed at home with mom and dad except on occasions when our entire family went to church.
I remember many things about those childhood Easter weekends like mom helping us color eggs and putting them in straw baskets lined with green cellophane grass. Nestling in the grass were chocolate bunnies, multi-colored jelly beans, and yellow marshmallow Peeps chicks. Back then, Easter was the Sunday that I looked forward to more than any other Sunday because I knew that my sister and I would be wearing brand new outfits to church. Cute frilly polyester dresses, fresh, bright white bobby socks, and black patent leather shoes. One year mother bought us pretty matching topper jackets. Mine was pink, and I think my sister’s was white or maybe hers was pink too. Some, but not many details have faded from memory.
As I matured, I realized that children were not the only ones who looked forward to showing off their Easter clothes. Many of the adult parishioners didn’t consider that Easter Sunday was about the resurrection or the message either, it was all about the fashions. People who didn’t go to church all year long showed up on Easter Sunday dressed to the nines, well many did.
Old Mr. John was an exception. The neighborhood drunk lived upstairs in the same apartment building where we lived. One Easter Sunday morning he followed his wife outside. While he hung back, she broadcasted to every neighbor they passed that they were heading to church. A rarity. Mr. John was wearing a battered, wide-brimmed Porkpie hat, probably reserved for attending funerals; a wrinkled, brown pin-striped suit that looked like he had slept in it and overturned brown shoes. An apparent reluctant churchgoer, his scrawny body was tagging a few inches behind his obese wife who was strutting proudly down the street, nearly bursting at the seams in a fitted fuchsia-colored dress. Perched on her head was a huge white hat with so many brown feathers attached to one side that it looked like a sparrow the size of an eagle was clinging there for dear life. Some sights you can’t unsee nor forget.
One day I decided that even if I went to church year round (which I didn’t, but even if I did), I would never go on Easter Sunday. I could hold a one-on-one session with God, as I usually do any day of the week; besides my absence would leave a seat for one of the Easter Sunday only worshipers who will crowd the pews.
There are some things that I miss about my church going days. Things like singing in the junior choir as a teen, watching a minister deliver a rousing sermon while using his white handkerchief to wipe the sweat running down his chocolate face like a melting fudge sickle, and the good, foot-stomping, hand clapping gospel music that seems to shake the rafters and open cracks in the wall.
These days, I need only to look out of my window at some of the churchgoers on Easter Sunday, especially the elder ones, decked out in their Easter hats and fresh outfits to know that there is truth to the proverb, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
By L Parker Brown on April 19, 2019