The Greatest Ever Is Gone

Ernie Harwell | 1918-2010
Ernie Harwell | 1918-2010

How many nights did I spend as a kid, laying in bed on a stuffy summer night under just a sheet with the rest of the blankets bunched down by my feet, trying to ignore the humidity, and listening to the voice of a man from Georgia who had been transplanted into Detroit to call baseball games for the Tigers?

Ernie Harwell, along with his broadcasting partner Paul Carey, taught me to love baseball.  Ernie taught me the cadences of broadcasting, the rhythm of the game, and the amazing power of the spoken word to break down the reality he took in with his eyes and send it hundreds of miles over the air to be reconstructed in vivid detail in my mind.  He was an artist – a genius with words – and I have never heard a voice like his since he left the broadcast booth.

Just prior to my high school graduation, I received a letter in the mail from the Ernie Harwell Foundation; it informed me that I had received a $500 scholarship.  It was completely unexpected – it turned out that I had been nominated for it by an english teacher.  I was thrilled to have received a letter signed by the man himself, and honored.  A few years later, I was working at the local sports radio station as a producer on the morning show and got to call Ernie at his home in order to get him on the line for a scheduled interview.  I took the opportunity to thank him for that scholarship, and I remember how humble he was in response.  The Foundation had apparently been shut down at that point, but he told me how pleased he was that he could help a number of young people in some small way.  He went on to do his interview on the show, which was great as usual – the guy had a million fantastic stories to tell – and that was that.

I got to talk to Ernie Harwell on the phone.  What a thrill.

Ernie Harwell’s voice is a treasured part of my life.  That voice has been silenced now, but it will live on in my memories.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved wife Lulu and the family he leaves behind.

And this is for Ernie:

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land…

“You Will Long For The Creature Your Hands Have Made”

It is rare for me to run across an interview that is powerful enough to raise a lump in my throat, but today I’ve found one.  William Stuntz is a Professor at Harvard Law School and a Christian who has lived for the last decade with excruciating pain, and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and is not expected to live through 2010.  Timothy Dalrymple interviewed him in order to get his reflections on suffering and death, and the result is very powerful, especially to those who have lost a loved one to cancer.

William Stuntz
William Stuntz

Here, Dalrymple asks Stuntz if he has any favorite quotations or scriptures when it comes to death.  Stuntz’s response:

Yes, a passage in the fourteenth chapter of Job.  The passage as a whole is not hopeful.  Job is uncertain what will happen to him when he dies.  In the end, he says that he will return to dust and there will be nothing after death.

In the midst of the passage, however, before he turns to despair, he has a moment of hope.  It’s a brief moment, just a couple of verses in the midst of an extended passage.  Yet he says, “You will call and I will answer.  You will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15).

I find those lines very powerful.  The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet.  I almost cannot bear to say them aloud.  They are achingly sweet for me to hear.

There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me.  Job’s hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.

I have wondered, from time to time, what it must be like to face death.  If I live long enough to die a natural death and know that it is coming, how will I cope?  I like to think that I will be courageous in the face of death, much like my grandmother and my father, but death is so foreign to all that I know and understand.  I have faith in God and believe that He did not create me to simply be annihilated after death, and yet there are times when the idea of life after death seems too strange to contemplate.  Will I overcome those doubts?  Will those doubts even appear?  Will I be able to let go, or will I cling to life desperately?  I don’t know, to be honest.  I just don’t know.  I pray that I will have years yet to build the maturity that I feel I need to face the end in a way that brings comfort to my family, which is really what I want.  At the very least, Mr. Stuntz has given us a wonderful insight into a time of life that we all will face, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to absorb it.