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The Month of September: An Emotional Act of Remembering

By Ulysses S. King, Jr. 


September is a month full of memories for me. Memories are important to all of us whether they are good memories or bad. As I reflect upon those times and people that made the month of September so special to me fills my heart with serene joy and happiness. American socialite, Caroline Lee Radziwill, said, “I believe that without memories there is no life, and that our memories should be of happy times.” Whenever I think about those happier times in my life the memories of my father and mother flood my mind like a river flowing and rushing to merge with the sea. I am reminded of how even in poverty my life was so rich. Not in material things but in never ending love. 

My beloved mother and father’s birthdays are both in the month of September. My mother, Tryphosa King, was born on September 5, and my father, the late Bishop Ulysses S. King, Sr., was born on September 29. They died two years apart from each other: my mom died in 1983 and my dad in 1985. I genuinely believe my father loved my mother so much that he couldn’t live without her.

Listening and Learning

Listening and learning from those lived experiences and stories in their past taught me to be responsible, and to accept whatever challenges and difficulties I faced in life with courage and faith—and with confidence, knowing that I could overcome them all. The Bible has a lot to say about remembering. Deuteronomy 32:7 says, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.” Although many years have passed, there are still so many more lessons yet to learned. 

In addition to my parents’ birthdates, each year on the third Sunday of September, our church family, friends, supporters, and community remember and celebrate the opening of our church in Oakland, California by my grandparents, the late Bishop Judge and Mother Sarah King, established in 1925. This article, however, is not about our church’s history nor my grandparents.

Social Media

I was on Facebook the other day and noticed numerous postings and pictures by subscribers of their deceased family members, friends, and associates. Some even posted video clippings and stories about their favorite musicians, entertainers, actors, authors, athletes and sporting teams, and well-known public personalities on their Facebook pages. Social media offers its subscribers many ways and opportunities of keeping the memories of those they love and loved as reminders of those special times, places, and events shared in one’s lives. We can post video clips on our Instagram profiles and post family pictures, wedding photos, funeral memorials, baby pictures, and memories from the past and present of people and places—and messages of any kind, type, and genre, ad nauseum.

It should be also noted that social media is largely meant for fun and entertainment and sometimes inform its members, friends, and visitors of new business ventures, ads, upcoming and special events . . . and more. While there are no age limits that I am aware of I sometimes feel I am too old to be on Facebook. Occasionally, one’s Facebook friends or visitors might peruse over a post or story of interest to learn something more about the “friends” they thought they knew or didn’t know before. And there are those Facebook friends who have no interest whatsoever in their friend’s photo journals, videos, quotes, and just simply scroll pass their postings with disinterest.

Many of these so-called “friends” are not friends at all. They simply are people we’ve known casually often through someone we know formally. I told an associate recently that I had less than 500 Facebook friends, and he laughed. He boasted of having over 1000+ Facebook friends (most he didn’t know). I told him that if I had that many friends, I would be worried. A “friend” is someone you hang out with, keep in touch with, care about, and want to publicly acknowledge as a friend. These aren’t people you met casually on Facebook.

Birthdays and Memories

I started to post my mother and father’s picture on Facebook on their birthdays as a way to keep their memory and legacy alive, but then decided against it.[1] We post pictures of the ones we’ve lost as a way to relieve our pain, while conversely, to restore our joys. Now, as years have long past, I realize no one really cares about what I feel or think. It’s been over 35 years since their deaths and this generation is largely concerned with technology, wealth, personal success, entertainment, and those social and political issues that are most relevant to them personally.

People soon forget and move on with their lives. There is no time nor room for remembering or recalling the days of yesteryears. The truth of the matter is someday I too will be soon forgotten (hopefully not for many years come)—and so will many of you who read this article. Whether or not I choose to post my parents pictures on their birthdays now becomes a personal exercise—and matters not to anyone except me. It is a personal act of remembering and love.

Selective Memory

I’ve learned in my studies and research that memory is selective. To remember is a normal part of the activity of the human mind. The most important part of a memory is the emotion or emotions it brings. Posting my parents pictures on Facebook and Instagram is an emotional and personal activity that gives me joy in remembering. My personal memories of them however will do very little (if anything) to change the world or the way people think and live. Nevertheless, my memory of them has become a spiritual activity and exercise that keeps me grounded in life and to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). 

For anyone who remembers my mother and father I think will agree they were humble, caring, selfless and unselfish, giving, and loving people. They genuinely loved and cared about people. Like so many Christians they too loved their Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and his Church until death. There was nothing more central in their lives than serving the body of Christ and His Church. Church was their life. Service was their calling.

However, on a more personal note, I have too many memories about them that I will not share here, less I weary the reader (which I may have already). When I think of all the wonderful and amazing things they accomplished and did together in life—and the sacrifices they made for our family and the Church—I am overwhelmed with love, thanksgiving, and emotion. It is precisely these emotions which allows me to learn from my experiences so that, in the future, I will know how to make decisions that will help me stay in a more pleasant state of mind.

Unconditional Love

While I sit here writing this short piece, I can honestly and truthfully say that I never felt unloved by my mother and father. My parents loved me, unconditionally—the good and the bad. But more importantly, they loved one another. It was their love for one another that kept them through many hardships, sufferings, and trials. It was their love that sustained them when others did not speak well of them. It was their love that motivated them to trust and have faith in God when prayers seemed unanswered. They believed anything was possible through prayer and faith. They loved and honored their vows to one another “until death.”

As I stated earlier there are too many memories and emotions to evoke here. However, indulge me to recall one memory of them and their love when I was a child. During the early years of my father’s ministry he traveled to conventions, conferences, and preaching appointments at least six months out of the year. I remember how my mother would sometimes sit up late at night waiting on my father’s return home from a conference, revival, or preaching appointment across country. He mostly traveled by train or bus back in the day. It didn’t matter what time he arrived home (often late at night), she would greet him at the door with a kiss, allow him time to settle-in being home, and then she would prepare a meal for him to eat.

My mother cared about her appearance. She would be the first person he would see and greet when he opened the door. She made sure that she looked and dressed simply and intimately for him. Being ready and prepared to serve her husband was not a command or some degrading superior masculine attitude of expectation by him. She prepared his meal because she loved him and wanted to show her love. Then they would sit down at the kitchen table late into the night together. Tired and weary from his journey, he talked and shared with her the events of his trip while she listened with interest and sincere love. Then he asked her about the family and matters of the home with a genuine look of sadness in his eyes because he could not be at home with her. 

Hopes and Prayers

It is my sincere hope and prayer that a day remembering those special times with the one you love evokes good memories from your past. Maybe while you’re walking in the garden or a song you hear on the radio returns to your memory that special time and place you shared with that special someone. Or maybe it’s during the holidays when family comes together to laugh and celebrate and recall those times when your mom would bake that sweet potato pie or prepare your favorite meal. For me it’s walking into the kitchen in the morning and smelling a fresh pot of coffee brewing on the stove and recalling how my father sat at the kitchen table alone with his thoughts and his God.

Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad.

[1] However, as of the date of me writing this article I decided to post my father’s picture. Today, September 29, is his birthday. 

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Filed under African American, African American Family, Memoir