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TrueTomHarley

Twenty Choppers and Long Stemmed Roses

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TrueTomHarley -
James Thomas Rook Jr. -
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A childhood friend of my son died the other day and he is not the first one. This system has not been easy on the younger generation, though it is easier on them than it is on the younger generation still, some of whom have hung themselves and streamed it live on Facebook. It’s a little hard for adults to reassure their children that all is right with the world when they see their classmate on the internet doing that, even though some apostates who have gone atheist try to let on that the world is just getting better and better.

Anyhow, he had strayed far from his Bible roots, though I did remark that I hope when I die I have as many people saying what a good guy I was as he did, and I worried somewhat how the speaker would handle it since it is a bit dicey and I found myself wishing I could give the talk myself, for I am good at that sort of thing, if not much else. What you must do is carry on not too much about his ‘bad decisions,’ (which the speaker did not, though it depends upon whose eyes you view it through) but you must keep an eye upon his non-Witness buddies and his daughter particularly and say: ‘this talk is for them.’ Of course, you cannot be untrue to the Scriptures, but the Scriptures are like a multi-faceted gem – you must search for the proper facet with which to let the light shine through. And you don’t have to avoid ‘bad decisions’ entirely – after all, no one can say that crashing your snowmobile through the ice when it had been warm lately was a good decision.

When you break into the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 is a fine place to start. ‘For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who are sleeping in death, that you may not sorrow just as those do who have no hope.’ Who can argue with that - Witness or non-Witness?

Everyone hung about at the lodge afterwards, and I approached members of the lad’s biker gang, who were visibly taking his death hard. “My son played with him as a kid,” I said, ‘but you would know him better than me – what was he like?’ ‘Better grab yourself some pizza,’ I said later on. Commish said no, for they had to ride and if they ate they might fall asleep. I said don’t take it the wrong way, but that strikes me as humorous and it reminds me of how my ancient Dad now has a lot of Westerns playing in the background, some featuring Ronald Reagan! in which the good guys are always ready to ride at the end of the show.

I also told him about the days long ago when I was in the doghouse with my wife and I looked for some grandiose gesture to try to rectify matters so I visited the Dinosaur Restaurant where Hell’s Angels were reputed to hang out to see if I could recruit them to visit her on twenty choppers and the head guy get out and hand her a dozen long stem roses. The waitress thought it was a really cool idea, and she would tell the guys, but I never heard back. “You should have called us,” the biker at the funeral said, “we would have done it.” I walked away to chat with others and he approaches me to hand me his well-worn biker card – I mean, think of the places it must have been! Believe me when I tell you, I am sorely tempted to pick a fight with my wife deliberately so as to land in the doghouse again so as to hire these guys. Though it will probably happen anyway for I am not the easiest guy to be around long-term and my wife occasionally gets fed up. Others in the congregation say: “that Tom Harley is a great guy, but imagine if you had to be around him 24/7!”

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Listening to Jack Fluen’s funeral talk, I began to wish I was giving it. In time, I realized this is the internet – I can do what I want:

“I hope that when I die I have as many who will say nice things about me as I have heard in the last few days talk about Jack. They’re here tonight, people he hung out with. Also here is his immediate family, and especially his daughter. This talk is for you.

Jack’s parents are here, too. Comfort the parent who has lost a son to death, for it was not supposed to be that way. The parents are supposed to go first. This talk is for you, too.

Present, too, are many from the Jehovah’s Witness faith that Jack was raised in. This talk is not for them. They won’t be left out in the cold, of course, for they have the scriptures and the scriptures bring comfort. We must be true to the scriptures, but the scriptures are a multi-faceted gem. Turn them just the right way according to your audience. They'll understand.

We must be true to Jack. Jack left behind his Jehovah’s Witness roots long ago and if I carry on as though he were a regular pioneer in the faith, people who knew him well will say ‘who are you trying to kid? he wasn’t that way at all.’ So I won’t do it. But he never turned against the faith, so far as I know, he just didn’t stick with it.

You know how it is with Witnesses when someone leaves the fold: they keep saying ‘come back, come back.’ Some do come back. But some do not and the constant refrain becomes tiresome. So we won’t say that either of Jack. Who’s to say he would have been better off back in the fold? Long term, I guess, I would say it, but who’s to say short term? Sometimes life is a broncing buck and it does it’s best to throw you, whether in the faith or not. Our purpose it to give comfort, not to rehash might-have-beens.

When we get to the offering comfort part, we will start with 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – we’re only going to do 3 scriptures tonight,write them down if it interests you to look up later."

It would go something like that. I won’t flesh it out more because it’s but a dress rehearsal for a talk already given. I would have included a few anecdotes about Jack early on, perhaps two from the present and one from his childhood.

The second scripture would have been from John 11 about how Jesus resurrected Lazarus. We would have taken our time here, because it describes the true nature of death. Jesus said Lazarus was asleep. When asleep, you can be woken up. Jesus woke him up. Imagine the implications for one who dies today.

I don’t know what the third scripture would have been. I would have thought of something. The reason you don’t want to do more than three is because some don’t want you to do any. And more probably don’t care one way or the other, but they will if you bowl them over with excess. Your JW cohorts may say ‘well done.’ but you are not talking to them. The third would have something to do with resurrection, or maybe the paradise. Many things you briefly explain without scriptural support. You would do scriptures for the brothers, but not for his chums and family hear. If you explain it briefly and clearly it is like a jigsaw puzzle coming together that they always thought was an unsalvageable mess. They can track down the rest on their own dime if they want or approach anyone of the brothers in the audience, who will hopefully mill about and not just talk with each other.

“So are you saying, Tom, that he is on your JW paradise waiting list? The obvious answer is ‘how would I know?’ but we do know that if you’ve made any mistakes, your death pays for them. And we know that Jehovah is a good God who wants the best for the person who’s decent at heart.

And then we would have thanked everyone for coming, invited them to hang out for a while so as to comfort one another, and have some pizza. If there was any hesitation at that point, I would have helped myself to the first slice.

 

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15 hours ago, TrueTomHarley said:

“So are you saying, Tom, that he is on your JW paradise waiting list? The obvious answer is ‘how would I know?’ but we do know that if you’ve made any mistakes, your death pays for them.

The story brings back a haunting memory.

Back in the late 1960's a 17 or 18 year-old disfellowshipped girl from our mid-Missouri congregation died in a car accident. She had only been disfellowshipped for a couple of months, and of course she could not have a funeral at the Kingdom Hall. No Witness would even give a talk at the funeral home or the grave site. The mother was terribly distraught. (I'm sure the father was, too, but he was not a Witness and I don't remember whether I ever met him.) At the Hall, one of the elders immediately started repeating the fact that a Truth book had been found in her car. After the meeting I heard him repeat it to at least 3 different small groups. It became common knowledge throughout the congregation quickly. (The brother wasn't really an "elder," per se, since we didn't have the elder's arrangement back then. He was probably the "accounts servant," if memory serves.)

My older brother was a friend of the girl's younger brother, and we still went bowling or to other outings. I once heard the younger brother talking about his sister, and I heard my brother saying, "But, you know, they did find a Truth book in the car." I heard the younger brother say, "Yeah, but that...." and then he just dropped his voice and changed the subject.

 

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A relatively young elder gave a funeral talk for the "unbelieving" son of an elderly sister. It was very well attended and I was glad that I witnessed for the first time a talk being given about a person, what he did for other persons, what he did for the community at large, how he treated his mother, etc, etc.  And he got in many scriptures too.   It was different from the usual talk which is somewhat disassociated from the person, and dwelling only on the hope for the future and the resurrection.

Love it that people are willing to remember the person who died.  Most people come because of the person.  And there are so many things we don't know about people, peculiarities and good qualities. That is why it is emotionally fulfilling to go there and be different, and it leads to some kind of closure for the family and all who loved the person.

So, Tom, you saw what you did for the policeman relative.  That is needed, too.

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The nicest thing you could say about Alan Harrall was that he was a terrible employee. I used to pick him up at his rooming house on Boise St. Sometimes I had to delicately suggest that he ought to pay more attention to his hygiene. Then I had to knock him over the head with the same idea when he blew off the initial suggestion. It really wasn’t him. It was his clothes. The laundromat cost money, so he would swish his clothes about in the tub with some soap mixed in.

Coming back from Fairport, you had to merge from the 490 lane into 590 North. I usually didn’t think of it until my lane was about to run out - he would have done it immediately - that's just the way he was. Though he would never say anything, as the end of lane approached, Alan would look over his shoulder to see if we had finally outrun our luck and would find ourselves shoved off the road. I admit with shame that, when I repeatedly saw him doing this, I used to delay my lane-change even more than normal until I saw that response. It was a little mean, because he was a recovering drug addict and he was a jittery sort.

I was not an early adapter of the cell phone, for it represented a change in habit, and I hate things like that. I used to carry on about ‘What Would Jesus Do’ – “I’ll tell you what Jesus would do; Jesus would use a phone with a wire attached to the wall! He would never use a cell phone and especially one with apps!” before I even knew what they were and imagined they were like bugs.

So when I say that Alan lived to talk on the phone, understand that it was one with a wire attached to the wall - this story is from pre-cell phone days. On one occasion, I unexpectedly entered the room he was assigned to mop and there he was, sitting on the desk, talking on the phone, with the mop in one hand, pushing it back and forth in case I might come upon him suddenly like I did.

Nonetheless, I never fired him and I’m glad. The man had many issues and he later hung himself. Had I fired him, might I not have always feared I had been a contributing factor? You want to keep your conscience as clean as possible. I wasn’t a very good small business person but I had a clean conscience.

I think he was studying but I forget with whom. I think he attended meetings but I forget where. At any rate, he was loosely recognized as one of us. The closest family connection he had in the congregation was the mother of his child, who was also studying, and in time was baptized.

It wasn’t clear to me at all who was in charge at the Metropolitan Funeral Home. I mean, someone must have been, or he would not have been there. Was it his family, of whom I’d never heard a word? Or was it the studying mother of his child, who found much support in the congregation she attended? At any rate, there wasn’t a funeral talk – just a gathering of many mourners. The place was packed.

After I’d been there a half hour, the mother of the child approached me in some confusion because nobody wanted to give a prayer and Alan’s family’s preacher would be soon clearing his throat if no one stepped up to the plate. I knew he would butcher it, sending Alan, who was afraid of heights, up to heaven to play the harp like Little David, so I said I would give one.

It’s not hard. Just don’t promise anything. How do you know what God will do? Just say whatever good things about Alan that you can – he was never mean-spirited – acknowledge how this world is rough and not necessarily fair, and tread heavily on Jehovah’s merciful qualities.

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A Brother in my congregation, much better regarded than I was, his son was killed on a motorcycle, while trying to outrun the police.

For about two years afterwards the Brother  struggled to stay strong in the TRUTH, but never got over the fact that his son could not have a Kingdom Hall Funeral. 

The "rules" said we could not be compassionate, even with the dead son of a Congregation member.

Remembering back on that episode, It makes perfect sense to me why the Russians have banned the WTB&TS from Russia, for "extremism."

When I die, I don't want to be part of a power play ... just have the funeral guys transport me to the slide-in refrigerators, and three days later the crematorium with my wife in a steel folding chair on the concrete floor,   watching.

 

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1 hour ago, James Thomas Rook Jr. said:

Remembering back on that episode, It makes perfect sense to me why the Russians have banned the WTB&TS from Russia, for "extremism."

 

Does it really? For that?

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