By Joe Rector

Amy and I recently attended the funeral of a long-time church friend. Herb Allender was a 98-year-old World War II fighter pilot. He’d served his family, community, and God well for all those years. A standing-room only crowd arrived to honor Herb and to support his children and wife, Mary Beth, to whom he’d been married for 73 years.

A Marine honor guard presented a flag to Mary Beth, and “Taps” was played. Just as the final note ended, the tune “Bad to the Bone” chimed from a cell phone. An uneasy crowd, hoping that the phone would be silenced, bowed heads and fidgeted in seats, but the ring tone continued for several more seconds.

Silence again filled the room, but not more than a minute later, the same “Bad to the Bone” ring tone blared again. A woman eventually stood, reached into the row ahead, and helped an elderly lady, who didn’t seem to know it was her phone that was the sounding off, mute the device.

Folks reacted differently when this breach of solemnity occurred. Many made that same grimace that one makes when he observes an accident. Others frowned in disgust or shook their bowed heads. Still, some people grinned and covered their mouths to keep from laughing at the ridiculous situation.

If Herb were watching from above, I’m sure he might have laughed heartily at the whole situation. He never wanted folks to make a fuss over him, and such a humorous interruption to the proceedings he would have thought was a proper way to punctuate the life he lived, loved, and filled to the brim.

With that said, I’m not quite so understanding. My dislike for cell phones has been stated on several occasions. They have overtaken our lives. Adults are afraid that they might miss a phone call, but for most of us, those contacts are rarely, if ever, emergencies. Too often, calls inform us that our cars need warranty coverages, our credit might be in danger, or the government has issued warrants for our arrests for tax evasion. Other phone calls are of the chit-chat variety. Still, we hold onto the devices as if our lives depended upon them.

Young people, who are much more savvy users, are even more addicted to their cell phones. Their bowed heads are not prayerful. Instead, they are intensely watching video games on the screens. Constant attention to Instagram, Twitter, and text messaging keep the younger generation from looking at each other or observing the world events around them.

Yes, we love our phones, but we need to reclaim our freedom from them. At the least, we need to disconnect from them at certain times. A funeral is one such occasion. A church service or family discussion might be another time.

Let’s admit it: we’re hooked on our cellphones. That’s a sad statement. Even if our addiction is there, we can turn off the ringers at times that matter. Of course, that might demand that we become more aware of the world around us and our presence in it. If we don’t take command of them, they will continue to suck our time and energy from more important things of life.