Monday, March 28, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 04-03-05
By Jeff Gill

Spring break right after Easter with heavy rain outside can only mean one thing: Peeps in the microwave!
That’s right, put your Marshmallow Peeps (any color, bunny or bird shape) in the nuke chamber for ten seconds on low power, and watch them puff up to basketball size!
Eat after with a spoon; they deflate pretty quickly, but after the science lab stuff with six varieties of egg dye has worn out . . . or you now have 23 glasses of grey colored water . . . inflated peepery is pretty darn fun.
Then it’s 10 am, and the day looms ahead, with more rain.
So the Little Guy and I will likely hit the Columbus Zoo (the aquarium could care less about precipitation), along with The Works, staffing the William Kraner Nature Center out Flint Ridge way for a volunteer afternoon with Licking Park District, and the bird viewing room at Dawes Arboretum.
It’ll stop raining by the time we’ve finished all that, right?
We have been working on our card manufacturing, too, covering the dining room table (“so what’s new?” asks the Lovely Wife) with paper, early attempts, and triumphant works of festive greeting art. Hallmark quakes with fear in their Kansas City citadel, as we laugh away commercial sentiments in favor of colored pencils, crayon, marker, and watercolor vistas (can you say “mixed media”?) surrounding unrhymed truisms as direct as any display rack can provide.
St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and First Day of Spring Break cards have all gone into production in Little Guy Studios, with Time Change cards our next project.
(We interrupt this homey meandering with a public service reminder: set clocks forward Saturday night, prepare coffee-maker for painful recurring darkness at wake-up, and change your batteries in smoke detectors, testing them and your CO sensors with a quick “bzzzz.” We now return you to the sentimentality, already in progress.)
But first, a Fiftieth Anniversary card for my beloved’s parents, united in marriage on what was, this year, Easter day! The design for this salute is a bigger challenge, since no one he knows well has hit this big 5-Oh. My own folks, currently basting and marinating in Rio Grande heat, are just a couple years off their own Golden Occasion, and of course we Loving Parents are only on the brink of their twentieth, not even worth a capitalization.
On the other hand, 20 years ain’t too shabby nowadays, and we might just celebrate it anyhow. Keeping a marriage in good repair is an art form that some say is fading, and even our 30 years less than a Fiftieth can draw the occasional “what’s your secret to a good marriage?” query.
To which I answer: we have . . .oh, sorry, the sun just came out and we’re getting out of the house and away from the keyboard! Answers next week, or if you have your own tips, send ‘em in and I’ll post ‘em up here along with our own. Go ahead, write my column for me, I dare you! (Paging Tom Sawyer, Tom Sawyer to the front desk . . .)
Send your thoughts to, and they’ll go in the knapsack until we finish Spring Break and get this kid back into school, when I can go back to bloviating beyond my word limit.
And don’t forget to set your clocks forward.
Faith Works 04-02-05
By Jeff Gill

Got will?
Not as if that advertising joke hasn’t been beaten into the ground, with church groups in the lead to flog that poor old deceased equine: Got Purpose? Got Jesus? Got Worship?
So let me rephrase: hast thou a Last Will and Testament?
For anyone who started way early looking for Easter eggs under rocks, and just crawled out from under thereupon, a woman who went into a semi-conscious state in her 20’s has been in the news lately while her parents and husband have disputed what course her care should take. Right, that story.
By the time you read this, the woman in question will very likely have died. Much ink on the subject has been spilled on the sidewalks outside a hospice in Florida, governmental pavement in Tallahassee and Washington, and across front pages both far away and on your front doorstep.
My own sense of what can be understood at a distance is that, lacking clear and unmistakable grounds, we should not remove basic care like food and water from anyone, not only for that person’s sake, but before we start trimming other inconvenient lives from our profit margins and Medicaid deficits on such a basis.
But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m asking you, especially if you are a parent but really if you are simply over 18, “Do you have a will, or at least some written indication of your wishes when you can no longer speak for yourself, in death or disability?” Even if what you think you want is to be trundled straight to the hospital dumpster if you still can’t watch TV or perform other such worthwhile activities (if “a worthwhile life” was a good standard of care, how many of us earned medical treatment today, anyhow?), have you put it in writing?
Many of us have recently heard sermons, prayers, and various inspirational messages about life and death and our dispositions beyond the here and now to the hereafter. Many of us also have considered, but put off a serious contemplation of even the most prosaic issues around what happens when we die, like “who gets Grandma’s antique pie safe?”
The Lovely Wife and I began Lent with a full, formal, official lawyer oriented reflection on some of the most ghastly possibilities life can hold. It was not theological in essence, but you would have to be thicker than a law book to not catch the echoes.
We now have the real deal on file, something that provides for the ever-popular “simultaneous demise,” as well as various turns on “who precedes who” in death, even if in short order, and what happens to children, as yet hypothetical grandchildren, let alone property and assets. And we have talked about who makes which horrendous decisions in front of a sympathetic if ethically neutral witness, and have documentation for everything from who authorizes what to what gets done to or with the earthly remains thereof.
Talk about your solemn preparation for the Easter season.
Frankly, there is no excuse for a person of faith who owns any kind of property and has any sense of commitment to others, even just friends, not to have something written down to simplify funeral planning and distribution of obligations after you’ve left the stage. Once houses and children enter the picture, something lawyerly is necessary, but anyone can write down a basic plot outline of their final wishes and tuck it in a place easy to find (your Bible, a filing cabinet, safe deposit box). And if you feel uncomfortable discussing these things with anyone, you either need more or better friends, or your faith stance is not helping much and you’d better figure out why!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you want to offer a thought about how “faith works” for you, send it to