November 29, 2008


Mom called yesterday, asked if I could bring her Grandma’s dress. It was hanging in the rafters above the dryer in the basement. I told her I would, that I would bring it right then. I took it down, brought it to my car. It’s green with little white dots and a frill around the neck. It’s plain, but it’s nice. It’s the one she’ll be buried in.

Mom was sitting by Grandma’s side when I got there, holding her hand. Grandma was asleep, breathing hard with her mouth agape, looking thirsty. Her skin was loose and her cheekbones sharp, her eyes were closed and dark and sunken back just a bit. She did not look well. On the wall were pictures of her and her kids, her face full of smile and life, just the way I want to remember it.

I wonder why the sheets are white, always white. So bland and plain. I wonder why people who are on their way out can’t die with something a little more aesthetically pleasing. They have white sheets in hotels and nursing homes and hospitals, and I think it's because these are places you just pass through. They aren't home.

Mom points me to the book where visitors have kept a log of Grandma and her condition. My cousin Julie wrote that she was already gone, already with Jesus, her body was just waiting to run out of fuel. I liked the way she said it, I think she was right.

Ninety-two years ago, my grandmother was four years old, living in a German settlement in Russia. An evangelist came and held a rally, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When he came to her, he said, “What about you, Natalie?” She knew, at four years old, that she wanted to live her life for Christ. She accepted him that day. Not long after, the evangelist was martyred.

And she lived her life for Christ, knew this wasn’t her home, looked forward to the day she would see her savior. She escaped the communists in Russia, came to the United States. She met Adolph Hunt and married him and they raised five children, made sure they knew the Gospel, too. My mom was one of them, and she passed her faith along to her kids.

Years ago, my grandma was diagnosed with dementia, and slowly her brain failed her, and her body began to fail, too. She went into Hospice care a few weeks ago, and a few days ago it became clear she was close to heaven.

Yesterday, I sat with mom and held her hand as she cried. She has cried a lot lately as she has waited nervously, watching her mom go, wondering when it would be, dreading her departure but awaiting her release. I held grandma’s hand and kissed it, said good bye to her, wondered if it would be the last time.

I drove away, went to work, went out with friends from high school, and as we went our separate ways in the middle hours of the night, my dad called. He told me they’d gotten a call from the nursing home, that Grandma had taken another turn, and that she would probably not make it through the night. I wondered how they knew, how they could predict that. They were going to see her, to say good bye. I told him I would go, too.

When I got there, it was 2:15 am and Grandma was asleep, breathing slowly. Mom and dad were there, along with Uncle Jim and Aunt Bonnie. Mom was at one side, holding her hand and crying, and Uncle Jim was at her other side. We sat for a while, quiet, watching her breathe, waiting and wondering, knowing that it was time for her to go. The pauses between her breaths grew longer and longer. The nurse came and closed the curtain.

At 2:30 this morning, with family at her side, her body stopped working. She breathed her last breath and went home. She waited 92 years for it. And now, she's free.

November 26, 2008

Why the Detroit Lions must go 0-16

I really, really want the Lions to go 0-16 this season. And it’s not like I’m just lusting for a trainwreck, with some sort of poke-it-while-it-dies morbid curiosity. I have legitimate reasons.

First, if you don’t follow the NFL, know this: For the last thirty seasons, NFL teams have played sixteen games each season. No one has ever lost all sixteen (though before the sixteen-game era, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14). A few have lost 15, and a few more have lost 14. But the Lions are very, very bad, and they might just be the first to lose all sixteen. And I for one, really really really want to see them do it. I might write them a letter.

There are obvious reasons why a fan would, at this point in the season, want to see their team lose. The most obvious and beneficial is that each year, the NFL feels sorry for the most awful teams and typically gives them the first pick of the college players. So if the Lions go 0-16, we’ll get to see them grab a promising player, give them lots of money, and firmly dash their hopes of Super Bowl glory.

And as for doing something no one’s ever done - it’s always fun to see your team break new ground. We’d be pioneers – of suckiness, but pioneers nonetheless. We’d make history. We’d become the yardstick for awful teams. In the future when teams are pretty bad, the debate will be, “Yes, they’re bad, but are they 2008 Lions bad?” Think of it this way: It’s an epochal change. Right now, it’s an impossibility. If we can pull this off, we’ll live in a post-0-and-16 world. In an 0-and-16 world, anything can happen. Including, maybe, such an outrageous thing as the Lions making the playoffs.

And the only way that can happen is if the Lions somehow hit rock bottom first. For now, things have been bad, but they’ve always been able to get worse. We’ve been a 2-14 team. Twice, even. And the fans have always been able to say, “It could be worse.” Going 1-15 would be bad. But it still wouldn’t the wake-up-in-the-gutter moment we need to turn things around. And the only way things change is if we get a season full of losses. Imagine: A whole season, a homogenous batch of losing. Perfection.

Fans have been hoping for this for a while, the point at which someone realizes what they’re doing isn’t working and hasn’t for some time, and maybe they need a new approach. I don’t have any suggestions for that. I don’t run football teams. I just watch football and hope my team wins, wait for drama and shoot-outs, 70-yard touchdown passes, fumbles picked up by linemen and chugged into the endzone, defenders clinging to his ankles. And someday, the playoffs. Or maybe a Super bowl.

Maybe 0-16 gets us there. Or maybe we’re mired in the mess for a few more decades. I dunno. But I can hope. Hope. Maybe Obama can fix them. For now, though, to not go 0-16 would be a disappointment. This just becomes another losing season like the ones before where we can say, it could be worse.

November 19, 2008

This blog, that blog, moving on

I'm back. I was there but now I'm back here. For the last three months, the Africa blog has served its purpose - sharing the essentials of my journey to Tanzania and the exploits therein, and my subsequent and successful return to the United States. Since I could get on the internet, say, once a month there, and could only get into email once or twice a week, and since I wasn't up to haggling with a long long email list, I figured writing that blog (and sending them to my surrogate blogger brother Jon to post) would be a great way for those who really wanted to keep tabs on me to do so. And lots of people did, and I'm thankful. I only hope I kept it relevant and useful. Anything I may have neglected to tell you about on there is no doubt better shared in conversation. For now, that blog will only be updated sporadically, whenever some story or image or picture comes up and bubbles over to the point that I just have to write it down and stick it up on the blog. And whatever I put there, I will also put here.

I'm returning to blogging life as normal. I don't remember what that entails... It's hard to come up with content for a blog that has no real purpose other than to share my own thoughts on things that are mostly pointless. Nothing here about hyenas, fires, climbing mountains, stepping in feces. But I wouldn't be blogging if I didn't think you'd be reading. And here you are. So... Come back again soon. I promise not to be boring, not to gripe about politics, not to spend hours writing about how I'm listening to the Cold War Kids.

Karibu tena.