Kids break stuff all the time.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Kids break stuff all the time.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
This is a complex issue. There is no small amount of online protest, petitions, rebuttals, blog posts, and trashing of Sister Beck's talk, and sister Beck herself.
First here is the "offending" talk.
The basic parts of the talk are (with supporting citations):
#1 There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.
When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children."
#2 Mothers Who Know Bear Children
Faithful daughters of God desire children"
#3 Mothers Who Know Honor Sacred Ordinances and Covenants
I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn-out public transportation. They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts. These mothers know they are going to sacrament meeting, where covenants are renewed. These mothers have made and honor temple covenants. They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple, they are not pointing them toward desired eternal goals.
#4 Mothers Who Know Are Nurturers
Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world. Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a "house of order," and women should pattern their homes after the Lord's house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work. Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women.
#5 Mothers Who Know Are Leaders
Mothers who know build children into future leaders and are the primary examples of what leaders look like. They do not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting. These wise mothers who know are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most.
#6 Mothers Who Know Are Teachers
Mothers who know are always teachers. Since they are not babysitters, they are never off duty.
#7 Mothers Who Know Do Less
Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.
#8 Mothers Who Know Stand Strong and Immovable
Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families. I have every confidence that our women will do this and will come to be known as mothers who "knew" (Alma 56:48).
Sections 3 & 4 are the ones that seem to be causing the worst rub. Indeed, it is a tad culturally insensitive, but are we going to be politically correct in a universal church? Certainly there are people who are forced to work by their circumstances, but one trip through Utah and it's obvious that many people, in their massive keeping-up-with-the-Jensens attitudes live beyond their means, and need to two incomes to live a upper-middle-class lifestyle that one income will not provide. Utah is one of the most prideful and materialistic places I have ever seen. The bulk of Sister Beck's talk, just like most General Conference talks, is geared towards the Utah-Idaho-Arizona corridor of Mormondom. That's where the bulk of the members live, and the mass culture there is one of accumulation of wealth. The housing prices there, the two car garages filled with luxury SUVs, and the designer clothing take their toll. Both people working means more income, which means people can afford bigger and more luxurious things. This drives up real estate prices, causing more pressure on the lower end, until suddenly, some families feel that the wife "has" to work to make ends meet in a lifestyle that they could avoid if they lived more humbly. These were the evils that Sister Beck was addressing--the rampant materialism that ultimately doesn't matter.
Reasons why I don't see a problem with Sister Beck's talk.
1. While she certainly could've couched her argument with a little more tact, there is nothing that goes against the Gospel. She was speaking to Moms, and to women who put off motherhood. She's not saying get married and have babies at 18, but if you wait until your 30's to have your first kid, 1) you are an idiot, and 2) it's not part of our Heavenly Father's Plan. She wasn't talking to people who haven't found the right person to marry. She was speaking to people who put career ambitions before family. There is a fine line between gaining and education and work experience, so that you're not dependent on someone else for your livelihood, and delaying children so that you don't ever have to "worry about money." That's between you and the Lord, but the Lord's servants are right to call those to repentance who haven't been heeding the commandments.
2. The Proclamation on the Family (1995) that most of these people undoubtedly have hanging in their homes, essentially says the same things that Sister Beck did. So, do you not agree with it? Does she really say much different than the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve declared to the world? No.
3. It's okay to disagree with Church Leaders. I do all the time; there a minor policy that we were told about on Sunday in Bishopric that absolutely breaks my heart (Because all things in bishopric meetings are said in confidence, I cannot reveal what it is). However, I remember things like this.
People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. There is no such thing as confusion, division, strife, animosity, hatred, malice, or two sides to the question in the house of God; there is but one side to the question there (Discourses of Brigham Young, 85).
and President Benson said,
"Time has a way of taking care of all things, of elevating the good and bringing down the bad. If we see things going on within the kingdom that disturb us, we should first find out if the matter falls within our stewardship. We then might go to the person or people involved. If it is of such a nature that we think it should be called to the attention of higher authority, then we can, in a kindly and quiet manner, take the necessary steps at the proper level.
"to publish differences we may think we have with the leaders of the Church, to create strife and division, is a sure road to apostasy. Our task is to stick with the kingdom." (Ensign, July 1975: 62)
and President Faust wrote:
"Free discussion and expression are encouraged in the Church. Certainly the open expressions in most fast and testimony meetings, or Sunday School, Relief Society, and priesthood meetings attest to that principle. However, the privilege of free expression should operate within limits. In 1869, George Q. Cannon explained the limits of individual expression:" ' A friend ... wished to know whether we ... considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities of the Church was apostasy.... We replied that ... we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.' " (Ensign, Nov 1993: 36)
4. Remember that her remarks were offered during General Conference. President Hinckley was presiding during that meeting. It is his responsibility, if incorrect doctrine is taught to the church, to correct it, during that meeting. As he didn't rebut anything she said, I'll assume that it has his, and since he is the prophet, the Lord's approval.
5. So to all the people who were offended by Sister Beck's talk enough to grouse about it in print, I throw down the challenge to you. Don't go around publishing your angst on the internet; don't write open letters. When we have our next General Conference, and you are asked to sustain the General Authorities, when they ask if anyone is opposed to Sister Beck's calling, stand your ground, raise your hand, and do it through official channels.
6. I must clarify, that I do not believe that dissention equals sedition or insubordination or apostasy, as long as it's done through proper channels. A conversation among friends about how Sister Beck's remarks could be a touch insensitive or Anglo-Utah-centric is innocuous; posting a public petition is inappropriate, in my opinion.
7. LDS members, have always used the word "apostasy" incorrectly. Heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy, though similar in meaning, represent different ways of opposing the orthodox view.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines heresy as:
Theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.
Apostasy implies that someone formerly held the orthodox belief(s) but has since abandoned it/them. Blasphemy implies a disrespect and inflammatory attitude towards religion. Heretics differ with orthodoxy over a few points of doctrine; apostates abandon all doctrine. Sister Beck's critics are more heretics than apostates...unless this makes them leave the church.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
My Mom is Superwoman.
What do yall think? Should the teacher lose her job because she had the children sculpt ashtrays?
By the way, I'm just kidding. I did this myself in Dillard in 1981. I made my parents an ashtray as a Christmas gift. If this happened nowadays people would have a shitfit beyond description. Times change. I wouldn't think it appropriate if it happened today, but no one should lose their job over it. But, I bet that's exactly what would happen in our weak-minded zero tolerance society. I bemoan the loss of discretion at all levels in our culture.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
I am almost speechless. At first I thought this was a hoax, but googling, I found several articles in Australian newspapers that confirm the story. We all hear about political correctness run amok, but this is just too much. This reminds me of many other political correct things that have been happening recently.
#1 Sesame Street claims that the first season (1969) isn't appropriate for pre-schoolers anymore, that it would be difficult to create a character like Oscar the Grouch nowadays. “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
#2 Cookie Monster gets put on a diet.
#3 The disturbing trend I've heard about, even my own nieces and nephews, of "offering" their Halloween Candy to the Great Pumpkin in exchange of a toy. Come on, let the kids have their candy. It's not going to kill them to gorge on candy for a couple of days.
I guess the Sydeny PC Police are worried that the children might grow up and be like this young man:
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Last Friday we had a meeting at Coker about our Liberal Arts Studies Program (LASP). It was catered, and after it was over, there was a more than generous amount of food leftover. As we're feeling the pinch of mortgage, student loan repayments, two kids, car, insurance, $3 gas, etc. I picked up all the spare food that no one else took and brought it home. Among the leftovers were about 20 cans of various Pepsi products (my wife will drink them). As I've been sick, I'm not really concerned about the diet (which has really been blown since my dad died--though, I've not gained a pound back as of yesterday---396.4 and holding [down from 417 on Labor Day]), last night I opened a Mountain Dew and from the first sip, it took me back to one of my favorite memories from high school.
I'm fairly certain it was February 1991. I went over to Norman Sandridge's house for his 16th birthday. We were down in his basement; the gas heater was on. Norman was having a sleepover, and I think it was Norman, me, Paul Dunn, and some blond kid with a pronounced adam's apple. I think there was another kid there named Bobby, though the memory isn't what it used to be. I do remember going over to his house with Norman to watch a Super Bowl (I also remember, somewhat jealously, that he had a gigantic poster of Cristina Applegate in his room--my parents would've never gone for that). Anyway, back to the main story. That night at Norman's we had on the stereo, tuned to Fox 97. We called in to request songs all night long. We got them to dedicate an Eagles song to Norman on his birthday, and they did it on air. That was a major accomplishment for us youngsters--remember when stuff like that was important and cool? At Norman's prompting I called and requested Edwin Starr's "War" and they told me that they weren't playing it during the Gulf War. We were playing some boardgame, seems like it was either Risk or Trivial Pursuit. Norman's mom came downstairs with Pizza Hut deep dish pizza, I'm almost positive it was the "Regular price, four bucks, four bucks, four bucks, four bucks" deal. There was so much pizza. We ate until we were sick, save Norman, who has always been able to eat more food, at one sitting, than anyone else I've ever known (I once saw him eat 134 chicken wings). That night was just a really good time. Nothing fancy or special happened, but it's always stuck with me.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there was Mountain Dew to drink, in cans, from Pizza Hut. The Mountain Dew I tasted yesterday brought back memories of that night so long ago. Whenever I drink Mountain Dew, it always makes me think of Norman.
While I'd like to be able to go back to that day from time to time, there's no way I'd give up what I have now to relive my youth.
Life is what you make of it. There are mistakes along the way, but, I regret nothing. Even my mistakes led me to Mickelle.
Life is for living, oh, and I don't want to live it alone.
Genesis 2:18 (paraphrased a little)
And the LORD God said, It is not good that Mac should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As a Southern, Mormon, United States citizen, let me say that, against stereotype, I am completely in favor of a universal healthcare system.
I am 33, a college professor, and I have a wife and two kids. In order for me to have "private" insurance for my family, via an HMO, I would have to pay $822.06 a month (almost $10k a year, or 1/4th of my income); that's with a $20 co-pay, and a $1,000 hospital deductible.
My father died 2 weeks ago on October 30th of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He was in the hospital in a coma for six weeks. His medical bills están por allí de $250,000. Since he was self-employed, he had no medical insurance. My father paid the maximum in Social Security and Medicare taxes every year of his life. But, because he made too much last year to qualify for Medicaid, my mom now has to wipe out their savings to pay a medical bill that defines ridiculousness: A bag of iv saline solution costs $75, FOR SALT WATER!
If I am to give 1/4th of my income to something already, then why not have it go to taxes? That medical insurance companies are publicly-traded enterprises means that someone is profiting from my sacrifices. The Medicare system for the elderly is one of the most cost-effective and efficient systems around for adminstering healthcare. I would expect the same from a universal Medicaid system.
I find it beyond hypocritical that Congress didn't overturn Bush's veto of an extension to the CHIP (children's health) bill to extend medical care to around 8 million un-insured lower middle-class children (mine included), when members of Congress have a free and universal health insurance for life that they gave themselves. If politicians don't have the courage to grant healthcare to all, in the world's wealthiest country, at least children should have it.
No one should ever have to make health decisions for their children based on whether or not they can afford to go to the doctor.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It's a good thing I wasn't the one on the phone because I would've ripped that lady apart. It reminds me of that scene in Ferris Buellar's Day Off when Ed Rooney tells Simone's "dad" on the phone, "You roll her old bones on over here, and I'll dig up your daughter."
The gall of some people to have the nerve to ask for an obituary to excuse a farking kindergarten absence when someone is grieving.
Tough talk from little people.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Here are some songs, that are melancholy, but seem to make me feel better. While I don't share the experience that caused their creation, I look at them like postmodern dirges for my father. I am overlaying my grief onto their rythyms and creating my own meaning. Iser and Jauss and Barthes would be pleased.
In no particular order:
#1 The Annuals, "Complete or Competing" I don't know what this song's about, but I know that when that Irish Celtic solo happens at 1:47 into the song, that I want to cry. It reminds me of when my dad would let me hop in and help him drive the bobcat during the bee business. I was but a wee lad at the time. Man, this song is beautiful! Thanks to Tim Boisvert for introducing me to the music.
#2 Neutral Milk Hotel, "Avery Island, April 1st" It's got a heavy bass line, and then someone playing a woeful tune on a trumpet. It makes me feel better. Thanks to Susanna for convincing me that this is one of the great bands of the 1990's.
#3 Wyclef Jean, "Yelé" I don't speak Haitian Creole, nor do I even understand most of what he's saying, but when he moans, "Yele, yele, yele, crie, crie, crie" I don't need the gift of tongues to understand the lamentation for something lost. Thanks to some kid whose name I can't remember at Pizza Hut in Woodstock, Georgia for convincing me that Wyclef was better than hiphop.
#4 Tool, "Eulogy" When I was an angry-young-man in my early 20's, this song meant so many things to me. I was mad at all kinds of things that I felt worked together, ignorant of each other, to keep me from finding happiness. Now, that my dad is gone, this song serves as an adrenaline pumping send-off that has no meaning other than to make me feel better. It is an angry attack on someone who really pissed of its author. To me, it just hypnotizes me for 8:27 and takes away the pain like no Vicodin ever could.
#5 "Curly Locks", Junior Byles This song is a reggae track that speaks of forbidden because the boy has become a Rasta. I don't care about the lyrics, it just reminds me of Marley with her curly locks, and that makes me feel better.
#6 The White Stripes, "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" Not really sure what to do in a world without my dad.
#7 Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Twilight" I remember my grandma and my dad dancing to this song together when I put it on their radio in December 1997. I bet neither of them danced since.
#8 Radiohead, "Everything in Its Right Place" In a word, dissonance. Sounds come at you from every corner of this song, and that's how my emotions feel right now. Everything will eventually be in its right place, but right now it feels so discombobulated that I don't know how to tread without opening up some wound. Everything I do reminds me of my dad.
#9 REM, "Imitation of Life" This is one of those songs that is really peppy, happy, and joyful, but that always leaves me feeling nostalgic and sad, but in a good way. I get the same feeling from "Nightswimming" by REM, but I don't like it as much as this one.
#10 Leon Russell, "Back to the Island" My mom and I used to listen to this song as night. It is nothing special, but it really is to me. I don't think anyone really knows this song. It's one that makes me think of all the fun my dad had sailing out there with Burt, of all the longing that he felt for living on the Florida Coast, of how he spent most of his life in Atlanta and how much he hated Winter there.
#11 Fleetwood Mac, "Never Goin' Back Again" This song reminds me of my dad's love of women, especially sexy women. He loved Stevie Nix, Bernadetter Peters, and any woman with big boobs. He loved my mom most of all, and they both loved Fleetwood Mac. This song will leave you happy, even though its about breaking up, I guarantee a good feeling when you're done.
Now I'm done.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Some days are better than others. Yesterday was a hard one.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
When I finally got ready to start cooking, I had to wash my hands. I walked back to the sink, pushed the soap dispenser twice, started lathering up my hands, and began crying. The soap was the exact same kind they had in my dad's hospital room. It's such a vile odor, of strong sanitizer......I'll never forget it. It immediately brought back the presence of his death, and all the emotions I had to face, again.
My poor mom has it worse right now. After spending six weeks with my dad in the hospital before he died, now her father is in the hospital. Hopefully they have a different soap there than they did at Emory.
Next year I'll bring my own bar of Ivory to the chef competition.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
She cuts a striking figure in that outfit, but I wonder if she's ever deconstructed what those words mean when they are emblazoned across her chest.
There is some fifteen-year-old sex joke humor here, but she's older than that now. Her shirt cheapens her. It probably makes people laugh, but when you stop and think, man what a horrible self-esteem destroyer that shirt is. It reminds me of a quote I like to use often:
George Patton, Sr., father to the famous general, in 1918, when his son was 34, wrote him this advice:
I wish someone would pull this girl aside and have the right words to make her see how truly unfunny her shirt really is without offending her. She is young; she doesn't have the longview. I'm not judging her for wearing it; I'm just mentioning that stuff like her shirt makes me really sad.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I'm not declaring that the dream was a message from on high, but it made me feel much better about my dad dying.
THE FLUX CAPACITOR, which is what makes time travel possible.
XENOPHOBIC GRINGO REMINDS YOU: Never forget that time travel first happened because of Muslim Terrorists! Who do ya think? The Libyans!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Avery Beverages is selling bottled water for dogs. You'll notice the rhetoric, "water for hounds and their humans." As you might remember from a few days ago, I maintain that pets, though they be much beloved, have personalities, and might seem human, are not. They are animals; they are property. However, just like humans, they sure as hell don't need bottled water.
Remember this post from September 5th:
No more bottled water! Bottled water is awesome, don't get me wrong. But the idea of paying for bottled water is just ridiculous. If it costs $6 for a gallon of it, that's twice the price of gasoline. Your tap water costs about $4 for a 1,000 gallons of water. You could fill up a 20 oz. bottle a day every day for seventeen and a half years for $2 less. To ship a bottle of Perrier or Evian from France to Chicago uses 2 ozs. of oil (Petroleum).
Now, granted, Avery only sells their products locally (according to their webpage), but they surely won't put bottled water for dogs in glass bottles. Plastic bottles are made from oil. But here again, my biggest complaint is that people don't see the genius merchandising for what it is, merchandising. The water isn't especially formulated for canines. It's just spring water. You're paying an insane amount of money for water, for your pet--for your damned pet!
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I am honored today that my mom and sister have entrusted me with the privilege of eulogizing my father, though truthfully, I asked them to let me. I must say that I am grateful that the actual interment of his ashes at the cemetery happened yesterday. Today will be a celebration of my dad’s life. Holding a viewing, with his casket open up here up front would’ve prolonged the grieving process; we’re not going to do that today. It’s okay to cry because we miss him, but don’t shed tears thinking that he suffered; he died at peace, surrounded by his family. I am confident that when my dad died, he was so sedated and his brain so diseased, that he didn’t know that he had died.
The obituary published in the AJC yesterday was not the complete obituary that we wrote for my dad. To begin his eulogy, I’ll read the complete obituary to you, and then follow with a few remarks.
John McLarty Williams Jr., “Johnny Mac” to his family, CEO of Efolder, Inc., died October 30, 2007 at Emory Hospital of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease; he was 57. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Laura of Acworth, GA; his children Mac of Hartsville, SC and Susanna Marie of Moss Beach, CA; his parents John M. Williams Sr. & Norma Williams of Moreland, GA; his sister Sherry Connell of Toomsboro, GA; his sister Connie Craig of Moreland, GA; his grandchildren Marley Xiomara and John McLarty Williams IV, “Jack,” who will greatly miss their “Pappy Mac”; his aunts Harriet Jensen of Newnan, GA, Glenna Blair of Sacramento, CA; Artie Blair of CA; and his Aunt Tina and Uncle Loren Blair of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; his father-in-law Raymond Buckner of Canton, GA; his favorite, as he put it, daughter-in-law Mickelle; many nieces and nephews, scores of cousins, hundreds of friends, and countless colleagues and business associates.
Johnny Mac was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 11, 1950. He grew up on Baxter Road in Atlanta, GA, playing with his good friend Freddie Henderson of Dallas, GA. He graduated high school from Woodward Academy in 1968. After an abortive attempt at a football career at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1968 he enlisted in the US Navy, and in December of 1969 he married his first love, Laura Ellen Buckner. He served in Vietnam, Sicily, Scotland, New Jersey, and Charleston, SC as a Naval Minesman. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1973, he returned to Samford to pursue a degree in Accounting with a minor in Computer Science. While at Samford, he and Laura had their first child, John McLarty Williams III, in 1973. At Samford, Johnny Mac became lifelong friends with Susie Waterson, Jodi Hobson, Mike Brand, and Burt Luce of Ft. Lauderdale, FL; through the years Burt, Mike, Kennny Vance, and my Dad spent countless days together sailing around the Bahamas and the Florida Coast. In fact Burt is stuck in the Bahamas right now because of Hurricane Noel. If my dad were alive today, he’d be in the Bahamas with Burt.
After graduating from Samford in 1975, Johnny Mac worked in a family business as a professional apiarist, raising honeybees and making honey. In January of 1980, he and Laura celebrated the birth of their beautiful daughter Susanna Marie. After three years of drought in the early 1980’s and the removal of tariffs against imported honey ruined the bee business, he found that his interest in computer science in college served him well in the emerging personal computer market of the 1980s. He would spend most of that decade commuting between Atlanta and California as he worked for various companies, including Vice President of Sales for Eagle Computer.
Tiring of the strain of constantly traveling, in 1990 Johnny Mac founded his own company, SafeNet, Inc., and worked in the Atlanta area during the bulk of the 1990s. In the last few years, he devoted all of his talents to the growth of his new enterprise, the now-thriving Efolder, Inc., along with his business partners Bill Gross of Sandy Springs, GA, Lynn Christensen of Kennesaw, GA, and Kevin Hoffman of West Lafayette, IN.
Johnny Mac was a member of the Allatoona Ward of the Marietta East Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving as the Ward Clerk up until his illness no longer allowed him to fulfill his duties. He had a personal testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and that families can be together forever through Our Heavenly Father’s Plan.
An avid fishermen, often found sporting a cap that read “Women Love Me, Fish Fear Me,” if he could’ve, Johnny Mac would have spent every day of his life, save the Sabbath, fishing the waters of Apalachicola Bay, Florida. He enjoyed making music boxes and turning wood on a lathe with his good friend John Mitchell of Acworth, GA, playing with his grandchildren, and telling some of the most hyperbolic and wonderfully interesting stories you’ve ever heard. A true Southern storyteller, he had a knack for knowing how to spin a perfect yarn and make his audience erupt into laughter or tears.
Anytime there was a disaster, Johnny Mac would hurry to bring aid. He served as a volunteer firefighter in the Dillard, GA fire department. In 1992, he rushed to Homestead, Florida, after Hurricane Andrew struck, to help with the relief efforts. In his later years, somewhat limited physically, Johnny Mac still lent his organizational skills to relief efforts, lovingly bossing people around disaster areas from Pensacola, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana after hurricanes Ivan and Katrina ravaged those areas. He was still planning to go back to New Orleans to help people rebuild their homes when the disease caused him to slip from consciousness. He loved working with people, being part of a team (provided he got to tell people what to do), and he had an infectious enthusiasm that motivated others to do their best.
Johnny Mac will be greatly missed.
My dad’s illness destroyed his brain. We don’t know really when, if ever, he fully checked out of consciousness, but I’ve taken comfort lately that perhaps God worked a secret miracle for my father. Let me explain. The Argentine author, Jorge Luis Borges, wrote a short story called “The Secret Miracle.” In this story, the day the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, a Jewish playwright is sentenced to death by firing squad. The man is a playwright, and feels like he never got the chance to finish his masterpiece. He prays and asks God to grant him the time to finish it. When the day of execution arrives, he is placed against a wall, and right when the Germans pull the triggers, the drop of sweat on his face stops sliding, and the world pauses. He hears a voice tell him that the time he needed has been granted. He can’t move, has no bodily needs, and is able to think and work on his play. He spends what we would consider a year on the play, all the while in suspended animation, and at the exact moment his finishes the play, the drop of sweat slides down his face, and the bullets end his life. While to the Germans, it was instantaneous, to him it was well over a year. God worked a secret miracle for him. I like to think that perhaps my dad had something similar; that while he was buried alive in that diseased body, that the Lord gave his spirit some sort of fun time, that my dad dreamt that he was hauling in redfish two at a time near Bird Island in Apalachicola, or that he finally hooked the biggest catch ever, that my dad caught a blue whale on a pogie minnow. That that during all that time, he was always “holding his mouth right.”
If I have one main regret about something I never did with my father, it is this: If ever a person were in more need of a comic roast, it was John Williams. We missed a golden opportunity to completely embarrass him in public. Imagine him sitting up on the stage in the gym, in a chair of honor, as we all came up to the podium and told our best Johnny Mac story. I can picture his face; he would have tilted his head to the side, drawn in his bottom lip like this, and laughed quietly while his cheeks blushed and he did his embarrassed Johnny Mac smile. Oh Dad, I’m sorry we never roasted you. We can’t really do it now, cause he’s not here to defend himself, but maybe one little story won’t hurt.
We all know that my Dad had a knack for saying something really touching, and then following it with something perhaps a little inappropriate. And then again sometimes, he’d just spurt out something wholly inappropriate without thinking, especially in the high priests group. I’m reminded of an egregious example from February of 2001. When my maternal grandmother passed away, her burial took place in Weaverville, North Carolina. The next day, my grandpa wanted to go by and view the grave after the soil was put back in. Grandma and Grandpa had purchased side by side plots at a graveyard there. While we were looking at the grave, with grandpa standing right next to him at the foot of his wife’s grave, and my dad standing on grandpa’s future grave, he did this motion, and said, in his loud voice, “Yep, we’ll bury grandpa right here someday.” Thankfully my grandpa is as deaf as a statue. That was my Dad.
But more often, my dad knew the exact thing to say. When my mom had her wisdom teeth removed, my dad, though cursed with an atrocious singing voice, tenderly sang the words to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” to my mom to comfort her, and it worked, because she stills get weepy thinking about it.
When I was a missionary, from 1993-1995, my father kept a journal. He addressed his journal to me every day and wrote to me about the trials and successes he faced during those two years I was gone. He was involved in building up a company, stressed by the responsibility of keeping it going and keeping people employed.
In early August, when my dad was really starting to show serious symptoms, which we believed to be an acute manic episode, I found the journal that my dad had written to me. That night, I read almost every page of it. I felt this special bond to my Dad. I know, for a fact, without a shadow of a doubt now, that I was meant to read that journal then. I knew in my heart that something was wrong, terribly wrong, with my dad. I could feel it. I wanted to reach out to him, but couldn’t say the words out loud to him. This is what I wrote to him:
From: Mac Williams [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Friday, August 10, 2007 2:44 AMTo: Dad Dad Daddio
Subject: One for Another
Tonight, I was going through a box of all my stuff I got out of storage when I found the journal you kept for me during my mission. I was immediately drawn to it; now that time and forgetfulness have waged war on my memory, I couldn't put it down. I read almost all of it tonight. You were so frank with your thoughts and feelings and spiritual struggles.I think of how the other night I really wanted you to come join us for dinner, and how you didn't. We wanted you there, I wanted you there. We weren't trying to leave you alone. While I was honored at the time you gave the journal to me, admittedly I only ever gave it a cursory look.
Today, I see just how difficult those two years were on you. I thank you so much for you labor of love for me. I am going to put this on my bookshelf and cherish it alongside my most highly prized books. When I finished it, it brought a tear to my eye. I love you so much Dad.I began to think back to what I was doing on those days when you wrote how hard a day you had, and now that I'm older I can understand better the trials you went through to provide for us. I can't really tell you how much I appreciate this journal now.....more than I ever could have imagined I would that night you gave it to me so long ago. I hope I didn't seem too indifferent to it back then, that I didn't stomp all over your excitement in giving it to me. I was young and foolish at the time, so if my reaction wasn't what you had hoped for then, please know that now I am indeed grateful. I'll try and do the same thing for Jack some day.
I'm fighting back the tears right now as I write this email at 2:30 in the morning, with my babes and my babe fast asleep in the back of the house.
You are an excellent father.
I love you,
...Somehow I knew that my dad and I wouldn’t have much more time together. I fought the feeling at the time, but I now I see clearly what happened. I sent the email and went to bed. I found this response in the morning:
RE: One for Another
From: John Williams - SafeNET (email@example.com)
Sent: Fri 8/10/07 3:12 AM
To: 'Mac Williams' (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Now that you are a tested father, you understand why I did it. You and Susanna are so important to me. By writing down what I was doing and feeling, I left you a gift that is better than an antique.The reason I did not meet you the other night is my health. I am having a rough time lately and my energy level is low and I am not getting any rest…as you can see from the time-stamp. The last week has been a week from hell.I love you son.
This was the last meaningful correspondence/conversation I had with my father, and the last normal week he ever had.
It is priceless to me.
In 1990, my Dad remembered his religion, and began striving to be like Jesus Christ. As we all know, actually trying to be like Jesus is really hard to do, but that didn’t stop him from trying. While my dad was not perfect by any means, there were some things that he was able to master. My dad was impeccably honest in business dealings. For those of you who remember when we still had blue laws in Cherokee County, one Sunday in 1985, my dad decided we needed to scrape all the rust off the metal staircase outside of our home and repaint it. This wasn’t going to be an easy task, involving hours of sanding and scraping. We sat in the parking lot of the K-Mart at the corner of 92 & Bells Ferry waiting for it to open at noon. When it finally did, we went into the garden section to get the stuff we needed. This was before the days of check cards and easy to use credit cards. My Dad had no cash on him, ATMs didn’t really exist at the time, the banks were all closed, and he only had one check left in his checkbook. We gathered all the stuff we needed, including a wire brush drill bit that would’ve made the job a snap. I was so excited, because scraping rust off with naval jelly and a wire brush while standing on a ladder was hard work. So, this drill bit was my new best friend. We got in line to check out of K-Mart. As we were in the garden section, there was a long line of people behind us waiting to check out; we had all waited outside for the one thing we needed, and we all quickly grabbed it. There were 6 or 7 people in line. The man rang up all our stuff, my dad wrote out the check, we got ready to go and then I realized that I had left the drill bit in the top part of the cart. I was visibily saddened. We didn’t have another check. The employee said, it’s okay, just take it. I was thrilled, but my dad said, “no thank you.” I said, “come on dad, he said we could have it.” My dad gave me that unmistakable look that meant “mind your tongue boy.” We left the drill bit on the counter. When we got outside, so as not to scold me in public, my dad told me that he was disappointed in me. I questioned why he hadn’t taken it, when the employee had given us permission to take it. My Dad said, “Son, it belongs to K-Mart, not the cashier; it wasn’t his to give us.” That lesson exemplifies my Dad’s ethics, and I’ll never ever forget how well he taught me right from wrong.
My Dad lived his life the best he could, and tried to help out other people along the way. He was a team builder; he loved to involve others in what he was doing. Granted, he did love being in charge, or helping out at the higher echelons of power, but, my Dad’s purpose in life was to serve other people. After Hurricane Katrina, he would work far beyond the capacity that his body could handle, and would pay for that sacrifice physically with painfully swollen feet and ankles. As an employer of people, he took his responsibility to other people’s families very seriously, oftentimes foregoing paying himself so that he could meet payroll. He hired people that others wouldn’t even have interviewed, and trained them in new careers, changing their lives along the way. He liked helping people help themselves. He was a fisher of men.
As a father, he would do anything for his children. And as a grandfather, well, he would have done anything, including giving his own life willfully for Marley or Jack. It was that selflessness of character that made the decision to give dad’s brain to the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center a no-brainer (pardon the pun—he and Jim Pruitt would’ve loved that cheesy joke). I think they put “Surveillance” in the name of the research center, just to make it sound cooler for my dad. If someone else could be spared the woe of this illness, my dad would’ve insisted that we give his entire body for research. Nope, they just wanted him for his brains, on Halloween.
My dad loved people. I really can’t count all of the people that my dad considered his friends. Certainly he loved Burt Luce, John Mitchell, and Freddie Henderson like brothers. My Dad loved Louis and Jennifer Debroux like they were his own kids. When one of their children was getting baptized, and my dad was too sick to attend, he insisted that I go so that a member of our family would be in attendance. The Debrouxs are family. Their presence at his bedside when he died was perfect. It would’ve been harder without them there, and them being there is exactly what my dad would’ve wanted.
The Schulzke children, oh good grief, he bragged on them almost as much as he bragged on Kevin Hoffman. My dad viewed others’ successes as wonderful accomplishments. He was never a jealous man; he was often more excited for someone’s feat than they were themselves, like when my cousin Marty finally beat him in arm wrestling. My dad loved family more than anything else. I don’t think the man ever got into a swimming pool without immediately offering to throw his nieces and nephews from off his shoulders, or to dunk my cousin Jared. He loved that his niece Carrie Lynn shared his same birthday of August 11th. He loved to tell stories of taking Robbie to Six Flags and the zoo; he loved to complain about the mimosa trees his dad planted in their backyard because Nanny liked them in bloom; and he loved fishing with any of his nieces and nephews capable of holding their own pole.
The man did love to fish, didn’t he? I spoke with Captain Jimmy Maxwell on Thursday, and he told me, “I just lost my best customer and a good friend.” He was really upset, not because of the decrease in business, but because he and my dad shared a love of fishing that they both liked to call “therapy.” These are the kind of men that would fish through a blizzard, because they loved it so. Fittingly, he and I are going to scatter a little portion of my Dad’s ashes out at Bird Island in Apalachicola Bay the next time I make it down there to fish.
My Dad never had to do what I’m doing today; he never knew the sting of losing a parent. I can’t imagine the sorrow my dad’s parents feel right now. He was so young, too young to die, but few people are ever able to decide the circumstances of their own death. Nanny & Papa, no one should ever have to bury their own child; it is a dreadful thing. Though we would love for Dad to be here right now, it’s not to be. The Lord needed Johnny Mac for some other purpose.
The Spanish poet, Jorge Manrique, lost his father on November the 11th, 1476, and he penned these lines that his father spoke telling him not to resist death.
y consiento en mi morir
con voluntad placentera,
clara y pura,
que querer hombre vivir
cuando Dios quiere que muera 455
Translated, “And I consent in my death, with clear, pure, and peaceful willfulness, that wanting a man to live, when God wants him to die, is craziness. I’ll admit, it doesn’t translate well, but you get the sentiment. If this death hadn’t found him, some other one would’ve. And you all know that my dad is bragging to Sterling Eide about how he went out from a one in a million disease. Sterling, ever the Viking, would counter, “John, we Norwegians prefer glorious death in combat to your puny celebrity diseases.” As I’ve called and spoken to many of y’all on the phone, people keep telling me, “That’s just like your Dad, leave it to him to die of some one-in-a-million disease.”
But, my dad’s gone now. It is real. I touched his dead hand and recoiled from the chill in his flesh. We put his ashes in the ground yesterday. He’s not coming back until the trumpet is sounded, the Earth shakes, and the Savior comes again to reign. So for now, I’ll take comfort in knowing that my father finished his work here on the earth, that he died at peace, with his family, surrounded by those he loved, and that as his heart struggled against, and then finally yielded to, the attack on his poisoned body, my father was singing a song in his heart like this one by Bob Marley:
Fly Away Home to Zion,
fly away home……
…..One bright morning, when my work is over, man I’m gonna fly away home.
Your work is over Dad; fly away home.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
"You know what that is, don'tcha?"
"I love the Gosphel"
"Ow, you peeenched me"
"American by birth, Southern by the grace of God."
and that when he was explaining something, he ended every sentence in "okay" okay?
We used to laugh and call him Mr. Mackey, like the South Park school counselor; you know who he is, don'tcha?
Friday, November 02, 2007
Once I've delivered it, I'll post my dad's eulogy to the blog too.
My name, John McLarty Williams III, is after my father's, John McLarty Williams Jr, after his father's John McLarty Williams Sr. My son too is named for me, and my father, and my grandfather. We call him Jack, but his name is John McLarty Williams IV.
Paul Dunn is named after his grandmother, Pauline Dunn. That we're both burying the people we were named after on the same day, is, like Wallace Shawn's Vizzini repeatedly says, "Inconceivable!"
I do know what that word means.
Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the lake,
from the hills,
from the sky;
All is well,
God is nigh.
dims the sight,
And a star
gems the sky,
falls the night.
Thanks and praise,
for our days,
'Neath the sun,
'neath the stars,
neath the sky;
As we go,
this we know,
God is nigh.
While the light
fades from sight,
And the stars
To thy hands
we our souls,