Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be


Although the whole title of this post is “Where I Wouldn’t Want to Be When I Die,” I was afraid nobody would read it if I didn’t at least get people to read the first sentence before they gave up. Actually, this post is not going to be morbid.

That’s my intention, anyhow.

I dare say that–given a choice–most of us would prefer to die in bed. Of pure old age without any painful or debilitating illnesses leading to our demise. That would be my preference, but it’s not something I pray for. In fact, the only thing I pray for regarding death is that God will continue to keep me mentally active until the time He’s designated for me to die.

Yes, if I can keep writing songs and novels and knowing who I am and who the people around me are, I’ll have a lot to be thankful for. Life–or should I say death?–doesn’t come with any guarantees, however, and I have to trust that God will do whatever He deems best with the rest of my earthly life.

There. This hasn’t been morbid yet. But neither has it been exactly on topic. Let me try again.

Here are some of my preferred places not to die:

  • In the shower. That would be a real hassle for Kathleen to have to deal with.
  • At a nursing home ministry worship service. Those poor patients probably see enough death.
  • Outside cutting the grass. No telling how long my body would burn in the hot sun before I was discovered. Can a dead body get a sunburn? Hmm. At least I wouldn’t feel it.
  • In the woods looking for something to make a new walking stick from. Especially if I was bitten by a poisonous snake.
  • At church during the Christmas musical. I wouldn’t want to take everyone’s attention off of the presentation. Especially when the nurses in the choir quit singing in the middle of a song and came to attend to me.
  • At a restaurant. I wouldn’t want other patrons to wonder if I’d eaten something they should avoid–unless, of course, that was actually the case.
  • On vacation. No matter how much I’m looking forward to Heaven, that would be a real downer for Kathleen.
  • At a writers conference. I still recall when the mother of an author friend actually suffered some kind of health problem that led to her death several days after the conference. I’d rather be remembered for my writing than for my departure.
  • Around little children. I’d hate for their parents to have to explain what had happened to me.
  • Around knowledgeable medical personnel who understood what was wrong but couldn’t do a thing to help. I wouldn’t want them to live with that regret.
  • At somebody else’s funeral. Talk about trying to steal the show…!

I suppose I could come up with more places and situations, but that list will suffice for now. Do you have any places you’d rather not be when you die? How about leaving a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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A Time to Wait

During the mid-1900s, Samuel Becket wrote a play called Waiting for Godot. The title refers to a character who never arrives, although the play’s two main characters wait continually throughout the play.

Doesn’t that seem a little like life?¬† We do a lot of waiting. Although some things come, not everything does.

How many everyday things involve waiting? If we wait long enough for the hot water to actually get hot, it does–as long as the hot water heater is working. Traffic lights eventually turn green. Grocery store lines eventually shorten. The mail arrives. As does the end of the work day for those who’re not retired.

And, yes, the weekend eventually comes as well.

Not all waits are created equal. We might be waiting for a bill we wish would never come. The weekend may involve activities we’d rather avoid.

Sometimes we’re waiting impatiently for something because it’s really special. A long-awaited purchase. A far-better-than-average vacation. Retirement. The publication of a writer’s first book. Or the birth of a baby–no matter whether it’s the woman’s first or her dozenth.

Sometimes we’re waiting for something bad to get better. For cancer treatments to work. For an abusive spouse to learn to control his or her anger. To get debt under control.

I suspect we’re all waiting for some things we’re not overly optimistic about. Honest politicians who work for their constituents and who believe in biblical principles and constitutional law. The end of nuclear weapons. Peace on earth.

And of course there are things like The Rapture and Jesus’s Second Coming, depending on which you believe will come first. Christians wait as expectantly as they can, hoping those events will happen soon. Unfortunately, despite the signs we see daily, there’s no guarantee anything related to the end of the age will happen during our lifetime.

At the moment–you don’t really think I wait till Sunday morning to write these posts, do you?–my wife and I are waiting for someone to come give us an estimate for some new flooring. That wait is okay, though. We’ve had to–there’s that word again!–wait a long time to save enough to pay for it.

Honestly, though, I’m more concerned about how much longer I’ll have to wait to pass this kidney stone!

What about you? Are there some things you are especially conscious of or bothered about having to wait for? How about sharing a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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The Lost Sunrise

In 1996 my daughter and my first wife and I took a family vacation to Australia. I’d been there several times on mission trips, starting in 1991, but this was the first time to be there without any responsibilities, and it was a wonderful time to catch up with friends I’d made over the years as well as to revisit familiar places and see new sights.

It was also a great time for taking photographs, and I still have an album–a thick one–full of them. Although it would be difficult–maybe impossible–to pick a favorite picture from that album, one of my favorites has actually been missing for a number of years: a sunrise over the ocean at Port Douglas.

Why? Why is it missing, you ask.

I used to have a big poster made from my print of that photo, but when my first wife moved to another state, the poster (and all of the negatives) inadvertently went with her. It’s entirely possible they were later destroyed in a flooded basement.

But what about the print that used to be in the photo album?

In my desire to have another poster made from the original, Kathleen and I headed to a camera store with my only print copy of that sunrise in a brown envelope. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to close the envelope. Can you imagine our shock when we opened the envelope while heading down the hall towards the camera store and found that the picture had fallen out somewhere?

Panic! We must’ve searched every inch of the path we’d taken, but to no avail. We’d lost it. Forever.

Hadn’t I scanned a copy at some point in time, though?

Definitely.

But the only copy I could find is so small and of such low resolution that another print could never be made from it, much less a good-sized poster. I tried using software that is supposed to help with problems like that, but it didn’t work. Not sufficiently well.

So this little picture is the best one I have…the only one I have. If you click on it, you’ll see it the same size you do now.

It’s no wonder I’ve almost become a fanatic about sunrise pictures (and making sure I have good digital versions stored in multiple locations.

This photo, taken at Sandbridge, Virginia, is probably my current favorite.

I’ve also become fond of sunsets–perhaps because of the symbolism relating to growing older. This is my current favorite.

Do you enjoy taking pictures? What’s your favorite subject? Have you ever lost a photo that was extra-special–or perhaps had a very special picture turn out horribly? How about sharing a comment?

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Habit or Obsession?


I suspect you would agree that each of us does a number of things daily out of habit–without even thinking about them. I imagine we also do at least a few things quite intentionally. As if obsessed about it.

When does an obsession become a habit, though? Or vice versa?

I think back with some embarrassment to this obsession from my post-college years. I started scheduling practically everything I did in fifteen-minute increments. If something took longer¬† than I’d allotted an adequate number of fifteen-minute slots for, I got seriously bent out of shape.

In order to track my time properly, I had to start on one of the quarter hours. Oh, my! If I was five minutes past one of those times getting on the road for a trip, irritable wouldn’t adequately describe my state of mind.

That was definitely an obsession–one I’ve long since outgrown.

Let me share a few other things that I’ve done in the past or I’m currently doing.

  • I used to always take a hot dog for my lunch before I retired. I continued to do that years after retirement. Then I suddenly desired to have something different. For the last several years I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches. Not just on weekdays, but for Saturday lunch and Sunday supper.
  • When dressing, I sit on the bed to put my left sock on first and then my right one.
  • When my Harry’s razor blades are a few days later than expected in arriving–I use one a week and change them on Sunday–I’m apt to email Harry’s and ask why they can’t be more consistent in their shipments.
  • When riding with my wife I tend to keep my eye on the speedometer. Even though she’s never gotten a speeding ticket, she tends to push the limit. I don’t hesitate to let her know I doubt the police might not be as tolerant of the excess as she thinks. A speeding ticket is certainly not in the budget.
  • While visiting family out of town, I’m apt to pick up my guitar and play quietly while other people talk. If I hear something I want to comment on, I do. Otherwise, it’s just me and my guitar.
  • After I take clothes out of the dryer–yes, I do the laundry–I do three things: clean the filter, set the dial to optimum dry, and throw a clean dryer sheet inside the machine. I get mildly irritated if I have to one of those things the next time I use the dryer.
  • When I buy a carton of my favorite frozen yogurt flavor, I allow myself exactly half a cup per day, confident that amount of sugar won’t hurt. If I get really daring, I use a half-cup container, not a bowl.
  • I don’t like crispy bacon. I’m not going to be rude if served overdone bacon at someone’s home, but I’ve been known to ask for different bacon when eating breakfast out.
  • My mother always watered the grape juice down with water when I was a kid; that’s what I got used to. So when I started buying grape juice a year or two ago and found the taste of straight juice unappealing, I started watering it down slightly, too.
  • I always wear a nice leather man-bag when I go out. I have too much stuff to carry in my pockets: small notepad, pen, and pencil; hearing aid batteries; emery board and nail clippers (I have to have my fingernails just right for my guitar playing); a comb; two business card cases; a flash drive; and the coins referred to in another bullet point. Oh, and–of course–my cell phone. I feel absolutely naked if I forget my man-bag.
  • Ditto if I fail to have my cell phone with me when I go out, even though I rarely use it for anything.
  • I keep two one-dollar coins in my man-bag for emergencies. I don’t cheat and use them for anything else just because I don’t have any other money on me at the time. I wouldn’t even think of doing that.
  • At bedtime, I have to clean my hearing aids and put them away before I brush my teeth. The two things have nothing to do with one another, but I get mildly frustrated if I do them out of sequence.

What do you think? Maybe I’ve simply confirmed your suspicions that I’m at least a little weird, and that’s okay. I write quirky fiction, so I should have the right to be a little quirky, too.

Regardless of that, which of those things are habits and which are obsessions? Do you have any particular habits or obsessions you’d be willing to share in a comment?

Sometime I may ask my wife for a list of what she thinks I should’ve included in today’s list.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Hope for Unity Day by Day

Divisiveness is a word I’d never paid much attention to until I officially became an adult and began teaching school in Cambridge, Maryland, following my graduation from Frostburg State College (now University) in 1968.

~*~

You need to understand that I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught that all people are equal in God’s sight. My father served as a minister in Farmville, Virginia, for the first eight years of my life. He left that pastorate in 1955 because he foresaw what was coming and knew his congregation would never tolerate his loving, tolerant attitude towards people of color and even shut down the school system to avoid integration.

When we moved to Norfolk in 1959 I ran into the effects of prejudice more personally. Mayor Duckworth–I referred to him as Duckworthless because I resented him so much–refused to let the schools open that fall for several months in opposition to integration. Once the schools finally opened, we had to attend classes on Saturday for a while to make up some of the lost days.

Integration was in, but in my six years in Norfolk, I don’t think I knew a single black person.

When my father took a pastorate in Cumberland, Maryland, I began attending the local community college which, incidentally, was meeting in what had previously been the black high school, I had at at least one good black friend. Neither of us had any reason for prejudice. We viewed one another as individuals, not members of different races.

During my senior year at Frostburg and during the summer, I started applying for teaching positions throughout the state. When I heard back from Dorchester County–Cambridge–I didn’t even have to return from my summer job in North Carolina for an interview. They were desperate, and I got the job over the phone.

Yes, they were desperate, but little did I know why. I’d been in school, isolated from any knowledge of the race riots there in 1963 and 1967.

Teaching in 1968 brought me into the remnants of hatred and prejudice, even though I’d been brought up to oppose such things. Things were still tense, and I couldn’t escape the reminders of what had gone on several years before, including the burning of seventeen buildings.

The tension reached a high point for me personally in 1970 when H. Rap Brown was to be tried in absentia for inciting the riots.

After dreaming I’d heard a gunshot during the night preceding the trial, I learned from my landlord’s daughter that my dream had actually been the dynamiting of one corner of the courthouse, which was just a block or two (as the crow flies) from my apartment. Was recent history going to repeat itself so soon?

I don’t recall the names of any of my less lovable black students, but I can still remember many of the ones who were as accepting of me as I was of them. Much to my pleasure, one of them has become a good friend on Facebook.

I had one extremely close black friend during my teaching days. Close enough that he and another friend were happy to drive to Illinois to participate in the wedding to my first wife.

~*~

I hate the racial divisiveness that seems to have come back into America stronger than ever during the last eight to ten years. It’s so unnecessary.

That’s one reason I so enjoy walking at the mall, where I see an equal number of blacks and whites and no obvious signs of prejudice on anyone’s part.

I usually see two particular black ladies, one of whom is pushing a double stroller with two of the cutest little kids. We–the kids as well as the ladies–are so used to my coming over to speak to them that they realize I’ve grown to love those children in a special way. No matter how squirmy they were, the boys didn’t object to my taking this picture.

Although the smaller boy in front can be quite shy at times, he’s usually willing to give me a handshake. He obviously doesn’t know what prejudice is, and that gives me a sense of hope for much-needed unity, if only for the duration of that day.

But I know I’ll see those kids again, and I pray that–as they grow older and are no longer being pushed around the mall–they’ll grow up to be among the best of the best, helping to replace divisiveness with true unity.

Feel free to comment about this or any of my other posts.

~*~

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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It’s a Small World After All

I doubt that many people who’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World left without having their fill of the song “It’s a Small World After All.” Personally, I’m still sick of it!

But that doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of “small world coincidences.” Let me share a few I know about.

Karen was one of the young ladies in the Baptist Student Union at Frostburg State College (now University). That’s in western Maryland, if you’re not familiar with it. I graduated in 1968. In 1984, when we moved to Richmond, Virginia, we joined the church Karen’s father had once pastored.

Okay, that wasn’t a huge “small world” illustration. Let me try again.

One Black Friday while I was still working at Target, I’d been stuck in Electronics; I’d never worked that area before. Let me tell you–that’s a busy place on Black Friday! One customer looked at my name tag, which only said, “Roger.” Then she asked, “Is your last name Bruner?”

Lo and behold, she was a former English student of mine from two hundred miles away and more than thirty years after I taught her.

And do you know what was really weird? She recognized me by my voice!

I used to have a good friend in Australia. At that time she was working for an American company that did business in Oz. She told me about a friend she had in America and one she had in South Africa. Somehow she learned that those two people were friends with one another–and it had nothing to do with their friendships with her.

That was pretty wild, wasn’t it?

Then there’s the lady I used to work with. This was at least twenty or twenty-five years ago. She told the story of baby sitting at the home of a song writer in Memphis when the doorbell rang. The song writer was getting ready to go out, so this lady answered the door, only to be facing Elvis face-to-face.

She was so shocked that she closed the door and went to find the song writer, who assured her it was okay to let Elvis in. He was so pleased at being treated like a regular person that he invited the baby sitter to a meal at Graceland. That was before he’d fixed it up as much as he did later.

He sent a limo to pick her up, and after the meal they sat in the entertainment room looking through old photo albums.

In 2003 I married Kathleen. Several years later I learned that one of her sisters-in-law was one of the kids being baby sat that evening while her dad–song writer, musician, and recording engineer Stan Kesler–went out.

Stan is still alive, but in poor health. I feel blessed to have met him.

Do you have a “small world” experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Avoid Some of the Shock

During my parents’ last few years of life, I was able to visit them at least every week or two. Although I could see how much they had declined from previous years, I couldn’t see much of a change from one week to the next.

When my mother called one day to tell me my father had fallen in the bathroom and couldn’t get up, I left work to try to help. But whatever was wrong, he couldn’t help himself at all. So we called the Rescue Squad to take him to the hospital. That was on a Wednesday.

I drove my mother to the hospital daily, but Father barely seemed aware of our presence. The doctors hadn’t been able to find the cause, and he wasn’t getting any better. So we weren’t terribly surprised when we received the call that Friday afternoon–just minutes after getting home from the hospital–that he had died.

It wasn’t really a shock. We’d seen the decline just over a period of several days after a more gradual decline over a period of years. So we were as ready for his death as we could have been.

My mother suffered from a number of health issues; diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis are the ones that come to mind. Life for her the year after Father’s death was challenging, but she was hanging on.

Then came the Wednesday night when my (former) wife called me at church to say she hadn’t been able to get in touch with Mother all day, and that was extremely unusual. So I left choir practice and drove to a darkened house. Not even any porch lights were on.

Fortunately, I always had a key to the house with me. I started calling for my mother as I turned on lights and went through the house looking for her. I found her lying in bed with signs of a probable major stroke. No telling how long she had been dead. Presumably since the previous night.

Yes, finding her that way was a shock, but because of her multiple ailments and obvious decline over the years, her death itself wasn’t a shock.

~*~

We’re getting ready to go on vacation. Going back to a place I used to live. I’ve made plans to visit at least three old friends and to worship at the church I’d belonged to then.

Two of the additional people I hope to see are former ninth grade English students. I quit teaching at the end of 1974, and I haven’t seen either of them since. Because I haven’t seen them growing up and growing older, I can’t imagine I’ll even recognize them easily. The changes in their appearance over that period of time will probably be immense.

Several of my friends in that town–people I haven’t seen in thirty-five years or more–have severe health problems. I’m trying to prepare myself for seeing them that way, but it’s not working very well. After all, when I last saw them, they were not only younger, they were much healthier.

If I’d still been living in that town, I wouldn’t have trouble recognizing old students or seeing the decline in health of other friends. But I’m not.

Maybe that’s why I feel the need to advise you to stay in close contact with the most important people in your life. Even if it takes a little extra effort.

Otherwise, your decline might be a shock to them when your time comes.

As always, your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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