Archive for September 2014

Paying Final Respects

September 29, 2014

Paying Final Respects

Dr. Steven J. Callis


Does progress always improve society?  Is it possible that some scientific or technological advances actually hinder societal growth?  Is it always to our advantage that developers are accommodating us with easier and more convenient ways to accomplish our daily tasks?

Paradise Funeral Home in Saginaw, Michigan has opened a new door in their field of service, now providing drive-thru funeral visitations.  The owner admits that he wanted to “bring something to Saginaw that we have never had before.”  Well, he certainly accomplished that goal!

Never leaving their vehicle, persons can sign the guest book, drop a memorial into a memorial box, and then drive forward to a window where they can spend up to 3 minutes viewing the deceased.  As the viewer approaches the window, the weight of the vehicle triggers a mechanism that opens the curtain.

The manager of the funeral home is quoted as saying, “We wanted to provide convenience and accessibility for our customers for the times and days they don’t want to get out of their vehicle.” They confessed their surprise at receiving so much negative feedback from people in the community.  The drive-thru system was installed at the cost of $300,000, but there is no additional charge in funeral costs for the drive-thru service.

Admittedly, this new-fangled visitation service is convenient, time saving, and the visitors who use it do not even have to dress up for the occasion.  It also avoids what might be awkward moments for some people who do not know what to say to the family or wonder how long they should stand at the casket and stare at the deceased.  But what message does that send to the family?

What concerns me is not so much the idea itself, but the indicated mindset of our society that it suggests.  From their earliest years we seek to protect our children from hurt, disappointment, and difficulty.  I am certainly not opposed to rewards and encouragement and a positive environment, but an easy life that is sheltered from all negative impetus is not healthy.  In fact, the current trend to make everything easy and convenient and accommodating is not always best for our society.

I am reminded of the little boy who found a cocoon and noticed that the creature inside was trying to break through the covering to escape.  Being kind hearted and helpful, the boy carefully took his scissors and cut the cocoon open to free the newborn butterfly.  Its wings were shriveled and small, and it could not, and never did, fly.  The boy did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to break through the cocoon was an instinctive necessity that would strengthen its wings and prepare it to soar through the sky.

We will have reached a sad state when we become so careless that finding the time, energy and heart to get out of the car in order to express our support and sympathy to a grieving friend or loved one is more than we are willing to do.  No matter how far we advance in technology, human beings will never outgrow the instinctive need to know that someone cares.

A Word to the Wise

September 25, 2014

Steven J. Callis

Professionals use the term, “M3,” formally known as third molars. The common name among laymen, however, is “wisdom teeth.”  They are so named because they are the last of the adult teeth to appear, usually between the age of 17 and 25.  As described by one expert, these final molars appear much later than the other teeth, at an age where people are presumably “wiser” than as a child, when the other teeth erupt.

The running comedic routine, however, is that losing one’s wisdom teeth is unfortunate because most of us need all the wisdom we can obtain!  We have just completed the last of the wisdom teeth removals at my house.  If you have been through the experience, you know that the only thing funny about wisdom tooth extraction is the patient’s “show” during the immediate hours post-surgery.

Evidence has been posted on Youtube and Facebook, among other social media sites, for all the world to appreciate.  It seems a cruel trick to play on the victim, yet most adolescents actually request that someone video their episode because they will have no recollection of their actions and words at a later time.

One patient was adamant that the surgeon had removed her tongue, while another insisted she was adopted because her mom could not name her favorite food.  Then there was the tough athletic-type young man who began to cry when his dad told him his wisdom teeth had been removed, because he did not want to lose them.

Generally speaking, wisdom is not actually knowledge, but the ability to use the knowledge that one possesses.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Any fool can know.  The point is to understand.”

One person remarked of another, “How can he be so smart, yet not have a brain in his body!”  The reference was to a straight “A” student who demonstrated very little common sense.  That need for practical application of knowledge may be why King Solomon asked God for wisdom, rather than for wealth or long life.

The Bible offers practical help in the Book of James when it advises, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God…but when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.” One important characteristic of wisdom is that it usually enables the wise to help other people.  True wisdom does not seek glory, but resolution.  It does not seek honor, but peace.  It is not meant to exalt one person above another, but is a gift to be used “wisely.” And it is wisdom from God that is the truest, the surest, and the highest of all.

She’s a Grand Ol’ Flag!

September 19, 2014

Does your heart beat true for the red, white, and blue?

Dr. Steven J. Callis

It was not a Broadway hit, but I was on stage at the age of 6.  The first grade classes at Fairview Elementary School were combined to present a special patriotic play for all the parents.  There were cowboys and cowgirls, flags and music, lots of fanfare – it was a rodeo scene, and I was a clown.

Three of us were chosen to be clowns for the play.  I hesitate to admit it, but I was the saddest of clowns!  I did not mind the face painting, though it did not thrill me to be wearing makeup.  The funny hat was okay, I suppose, and the baggy clothes and mismatched socks were tolerable.  My mom worked hard to help me look like a clown.

But for whatever reason, I decided to draw a line when it came to the shoes. After only 5 years of life, my experience with clowns was minimal.  I did not realize shoes were such a big deal for a rodeo clown, but apparently…well, my mom’s designer clown outfit included my oldest brother’s tennis shoes.  He was a seventh grader, and as it turns out, clowns are supposed to wear shoes that are too big for their feet.

I remember the fuss, but I do not recall why I decided to “put my foot down” at that point. Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  The entire clown suit was too large for me, I felt conspicuous, and I did not want to fall down walking in these clown shoes.  And the craziest part of it – I was afraid people would laugh at me (yes, I know, that was the point, but I was 6)!

Well, mom won out, and of course, I was cute as a button. Proudly, I still have the 8×10 black and white photo of Tim, Alan, and me.

The grand finale of the play brought the house down. Most of the rodeo players were stretched across the stage in 3 lines with space between each line.  The remaining players marched back and forth across the stage carrying American flags between the lines of students as the music blared, “You’re a grand ol’ flag, you’re a high flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave.  You’re the emblem of the land I love; the home of the free and the brave.”

While there are significant concerns across our nation politically, socially, economically, spiritually, and environmentally, the key has always been our ability to put the good of the nation above personal self-interests. We must be able to sing with deep conviction, “every heart beats true for the red, white, and blue.”  I’ll never forget how that song brought a room full of parents to their feet with pride for their children and for their nation.