On the Passing of Patricia McCallum Pickens

Those people who are tired of reading about my mother’s life and death will just have to humor me for a little while longer.

Soon enough, I’ll get back to reincarnation, sex, astrology, gay marriage, laughter, freemasonry, money, and all the other “abominations” I rant about. For now, just be a shoulder, would ya? You did it for Kanye West….

Right before the funeral last Saturday, my cousin, Todd Ledbetter, played a rendition of “I Won’t Complain” on the soprano saxophone and there was barely a dry eye in the house. Even he was getting a little misty as he played. If that song had been about 40 seconds longer, I swear he would have started hyperventilating and swallowed the horn.

The sanctuary and overflow room at the church were filled to capacity. My guess is at least 1000 people were in attendance. The handshaking and hugging and people vying for their 2 minutes of microphone time during the family hour was almost overwhelming. As a result, Todd didn’t get a chance to say anything, even though he and my mother had a close relationship. Below are a few of his thoughts about my mom that he was kind enough to post on my blog:

Aunt Pat and I had a special relationship. Not only am I her oldest sister’s only child, I’m also her godson-one of several. Because of that closeness she called me “The first baby”, right up until the last time I saw her. I remember as a child always looking forward to seeing her. She always had a gift, and never forgot my birthday or Christmas. On one of her early trips to Africa she brought me back a little blue dashiki (I think my mother still has that dashiki). But the best gift she gave me were my two little cousins, Trei and Seth. One of the great joys of my childhood was seeing and playing with them at family gatherings. The Pickens family took me along on several summer trips: The World’s Fair, Cedar Point, New York, down south.

I remember her wedding, even though I was only four. It was an African Wedding with lots of drumming, singing and dancing. Thirty years later I had an African wedding. As part of the ceremony two elders were chosen to give words of wisdom to my wife and me. The elders were Uncle Alex and Aunt Pat. My aunt was a proud soror of Delta Sigma Theta. When she found out my wife is an AKA she pursed her lips as only she could and said to me, “Why’d you go and do that?” They would often trade loving inter-sorority jabs when they saw each other.

She was a woman of definite opinions. Opinions she was in no wise reticent to share, and expected you to agree. From politics, to religion to child rearing, the lines for her were always clearly defined. In my younger days I thought her parenting style was excessive. Now that I am raising three sons of my own, I understand the method to the madness. She often used the phrase, “Turning a generation”. She and Uncle Alex did that, and more. Not only did they raise two mighty men of valor in my cousins, they also laid down a blueprint of effective parenting for the rest of us to follow.

Her life journey with Uncle Alex was all about meeting life on their own terms, as guided by the Holy Spirit. They traveled, served their community tirelessly, touched a lot of people and saved a lot of lives, putting God first in all they did. My wife Sislena summed it up:

“She’s such a BIG person.
Lived BIG.
Loved BIG.
Played BIG.
You never had to wonder with her.”

Thanks, cuz.

Todd also happens to be a renowned gospel and jazz artist. His first album, Hymns in the Key of Jazz, comes highly recommended. Go cop that. http://www.toddledbetter.com/products.html

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