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It's the "Firsts" that hit hard...

When you've spent 27 years of your life with someone and 13 of those in the same house you've pretty much been anywhere and everywhere with that person at at least one point. You've attended the same restaurants, grocery stores, church, parks ect. Going back to those places for the first time brings a realization that you won't be able to do that again. It's a very real, painful experience. All you can do is to ask God for strength, take a deep breath and go through the "Firsts".

For anyone that knows my family on any level or even if you don't know us, I'm sure you've heard that were pretty huge Michigan Football fans.

We were born into it.

Okay, well I actually was "born" an Auburn Tiger however; when my parents moved north to Michigan to start our church we quickly fell in love with the winged helmets.  My dad started the church by going out to the Diag which is the central location of campus at the University of Michigan. My brother's and I grew up there.

Dad would preach for hours and we would run around, climb the trees, explore the library and hang out with the students. We loved it.

We'd always look for the football players.

Jamie was obsessed with Jamie Morris because they had the same name. One day on campus, he got his autograph on an old paper plate because that's all he could find. He saved that thing and slept with it for months.

The Big House was our playground.

In case you live under a rock that's the nickname of the Michigan stadium because it's the biggest and best in the country. Yes we have that arrogant confident Michigan swagger. Dad would take me and my brother's down to the football field and we would play for hours.

Dad would scream the Michigan fight song and myself, Matt and Jamie would run out of the tunnel like we were the team. I would immediately go stand where the cheerleaders stood and make up cheers while daddy would be the all time quarterback and the boys would run play after play emulating their hero's.   In our minds, we were standing in front of 110,000 people.

Jamie lived in a diaper and his Michigan football helmet. Sometimes mom would convince him to get dressed so he'd put on the entire uniform.

As we got older our passion and love for the sport grew as did our knowledge.  I guess sometimes you could say we are obsessed. But it's fun, and it's something my family shares together and has throughout our childhood's and into our adult lives.

Jamie taught me so much.

Okay well my daddy taught me the basics. Dad would literally line up my vitamins before school and teach me plays. Ever seen the movie "Remember the Titans?" - I'm that little girl.

As I got older however; Jamie would teach me the real "nitty gritty" of the game.

He taught me what a disguised blitz looks like and how to call it out when you see it. He taught me what a play action pass meant and what it meant to "establish the run".  He taught me so much that after a few years, I was finally able to debate him and learned how to defend my opinion. I think he loved to hate that part. 

Each summer, dad buys us the Big 10 catalog. Jamie and dad and I would sit at my parents lake house and scout, dissect, predict, debate and sometimes argue what our thoughts would be on the upcoming season. 

Literally for hours and hours and hours. 

Inevitably, my optimism would take over and I'd have us "packed for Pasadena" by the end of the conversation but; Jamie would quickly bring me back down to earth. (I still stand firm that were there within the next 3 years...yup that's the official prediction folks)

This year after what I believe IS the game of the year for the 2011-2012 college football season. In case you weren't one of the 4 million watching it was Michigan vs. Notre Dame - think 27 seconds left....Touchdown Roy Roundtree!

My phone rang....

"Tell me EVERYTHING! I want to be there so bad!"  Jamie was screaming and singing "Hail to the Victors" into the phone.

The next day we all came to my parents house and re-watched the 4th quarter. Jamie who hadn't been able to come home for the game because of his responsibilities at school, hung on the phone while my family did what my family does best....dissect every play backwards and forwards and hailed our team as the greatest football program to be a fan of.  (There's that arrogance confidence..snicker) Jamie was a great advocate to that argument.

Privately a few days later, Jamie and I had one of our "What do you think is gonna happen now" conversations. 

It lasted for hours.

We had predicted each game accept for these last two. "The Biggest two" of the season we always said. 

Now, here I am 4 days before one of those biggest two begin.  

Okay Nebraska don't get too high you're important but; the OLIAR State Ohio State game will always be "The Game".   It is after all Good vs. Evil.

My brother didn't think he would be able to come for any of the games that I had extra tickets for because he had so many responsibilities at school and with work. He was dating a beautiful girl from Cookville TN so between school work and the girl,  it just didn't seem like it would work out.

He was planning on coming back for these two but ticket prices on these are sky high and so we didn't know who would actually attend. (this comes down to great heated arguments and drawing straws at times)

He called me however; on a Thursday and told me that he had one chance to come on the next Saturday. He was going to drive through the night after class and asked if I had any tickets.  I happen to have 2 extra tickets.

Thank you so much Lord, for the blessing of that last game in the Big House with my brother. I will never forget it.

I haven't been back to the stadium since Jamie went home to heaven. 

To be honest with you, it's really hard to even watch the games. Sure we do it,  but not with the same intensity or passion. The kind of intensity which would lead me to cry after a loss or at best throw something across my mom's poor kitchen. It just hasn't been there. The hardest part for me is after the game is over.

Win or lose, I can't call my brother...that's painful.

This weekend Michigan hosts Nebraska for the first time playing at the Big House. It's a game that Michigan and Nebraska fans have been anticipating all year.  It was a match up that Jamie and I spoke of and neither one of us could ever predict the outcome. This is very rare occurrence because you see we sincerely believe we know everything so don't challenge our predictions.

"I just don't know Christa, it could go either way, but man what a game that will be!" he would say to me.

He was supposed to be back in Michigan for this one.

I have season tickets to the games and I missed the last home game. It was the first miss I have had in over 10 years. I just couldn't do it.

Remember how I said "firsts are the hardest", well this is the biggest "First" that I have been the most terrified to face.

I've been going back and forth and even praying over what I should do for the next two games. After all, these are "The Big Two".  I know you might think that sounds silly to pray over football, but our God is a really cool God. And yes, he's one that will even be with you when having to decide if you should go to a football game.

After praying for this answer for the last couple of weeks. God gave me my answer and gave me my peace.

Even more awesome than that,  he gave me my passion again. I actually played the fight song really loud all by myself in my car yesterday and for the first time since I lost my brother, felt that fire again that we shared for 27 years. 

I will be at the Big House with my beautiful sister Allyssa on Saturday. Section 13 Row 33 where we've sat for years. If I cry the entire time, I will be there. And I will root for the boys like I always have done.

I'm going for Jamie. I know that's what he wants. I know that because I would want him to go.

"Those who stay will be Champions". That was Jamie and mine's favorite quote from the beloved Bo Schembechler.  

Jamie, win or lose, this ones for you brother. 



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Comment by Debe Maxwell on November 18, 2011 at 8:46pm

Christa...you write SO beautifully!  I love this and I will certainly be thinking of you during the game--I do hope it's televised so that we can watch here in the hospital.  You'll be on my mind and in my heart!  Love you girlie!


Comment by Sherry Nagle on November 17, 2011 at 10:41pm
Glad we got to tailgate with Jamie and wish we were going to be there Saturday with you, but we look forward to seeing you at the next one!!! Love u & GO BLUE!!!
Comment by Melissa on November 17, 2011 at 2:36pm

So proud of you, Christa. I know Jamie would be, too! And praying over football??? That seems perfectly normal to me! :)

Comment by Betty Steele on November 17, 2011 at 2:20pm

Oh Christa, how eloquently stated. You should write a book. It would be a testimony to you and your family and a best seller at that!

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