Stinky Cheese and Second Chances

by Larry Hehn on December 6, 2010

Have you ever noticed how certain smells can bring back memories of different times, different experiences in your life?

No matter where I am, the smell of a wood fire always reminds me of the wood stove in my grandfather’s kitchen. The smell of musty leather transports me to old hockey dressing rooms and memories of games now decades old. And the smell of clementine oranges takes me right back to sorting through my childhood stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.

I had such a flashback this past weekend, but it wasn’t pleasant. The stench that came from our refrigerator took me back to a densely wooded area. A search party. A slow and somber walk, each of us an arm’s length apart. Walking a grid. Finally finding the body of a missing young man who had taken a lethal dose of “recreational” drugs and wandered off from a rave the week before, to die alone in the woods. The unforgettable, pungent smell of decay. Not something I’ll ever forget.

And not something I expected to be coming from my fridge. Especially from something that was reportedly still edible.

OKA is one stinky cheese.

Of course, rather than report that it “smells like death,” the cheese makers/spin doctors instead say that it has a “legendary and distinct aroma.” After a lot of research to determine that it really was supposed to smell that bad, I decided to give it a taste. To my surprise, the flavor was actually quite good!

Based on the smell, I was ready to throw the cheese out. I’m glad that I gave it a second chance.

Everywhere I looked this past weekend, I found the running theme of second chances. Our church presented three amazing performances of a production called Imagine Christmas. We were blessed with a tremendous cast and crew. I had the pleasure of playing Alvin, one of two lovable but clumsy angels who were always getting into trouble, and who bungled their way into the story of creation and Christmas.

It was already a wonderful story about God’s grace and second chances. But there was also a slight glitch-turned-lesson in Friday night’s performance. One of the sound cables failed, leaving our three wise men without music for their scheduled number. When the expected music did not play, they cleverly ad-libbed for seven minutes, worked their way off stage, and actually returned to complete their number one scene later. To thunderous applause.

From stinky cheese to drama themes to making the best of technical glitches, this past weekend was really all about second chances.

What different smells bring up memories for you?

When have you been thankful for a second chance?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason December 6, 2010 at 2:04 am

Yeah…the smell of death. You don’t forget it after you experience it. (I was in media for 20 years and unfortunately have been around my fair share of dead bodies.)

As for second chances, I’m thankful for the few God’s been gracious enough to give me. I get to be a husband again and father full-time to a precious little girl who didn’t have a daddy until I came along. I still get to be dad to my boys although I don’t see them much. I’m very grateful I can still be in their lives.
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Larry Hehn December 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Yep, I love being a dad. I’m glad to hear that you are not only part of your daughter’s life, but of your boys as well. Thanks, Jason!


Jim F. December 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

There are a number of smells that bring back both good and bad memories for me. Wood stove being one because my grandparents heated their house with one.

I have been thankful for many second chances. One would be when I made some real mistakes in school and got some second chances there and have gone further than I could have ever imagined educationally.

Thanks for the post Larry.
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Larry Hehn December 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

When I think of all the second chances I’ve been given, I hope and pray that I remember to be just as gracious to others. Sometimes it’s scary to think about where I would have stopped without them. Thanks, Jim!


JamesBrett December 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

i’ve been thankful for second chances on several occasions. they honestly are not that incredibly rare — non-christians offer them, as do genuinely bad people at times. still, though, i’m thankful for them, because they’re not deserved. expected at times maybe, but not deserved.

but i’m incredibly thankful for third and fourth chances. and my wife has given them to me in spades.
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Larry Hehn December 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I hear ya, Brett. I’m very thankful to also have a gracious wife!


Tony Alicea December 6, 2010 at 11:50 am

This is awesome. Cheese is that wonderfully pungent food that can make you barf and be delightfully delicious at the same time.

I know I’ve been pretty stinky and I’m so thankful for second chances. I’ve been a pretty big jerk in relationships and I received some pretty graceful second chances.
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Larry Hehn December 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I like that word barf. Whenever I hear it I think of the John Candy character in Spaceballs. Half man, half dog. “I’m my own best friend!”


David Rupert December 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I have a pouch of my dad’s smoking tobacco that I smell. Love that cherry wood aroma. And bought a tomatoe today , the vine ripened kind with a little bit of the twig still on it and thought of running in grandpa’s garden. It’s been 40 years but that smell brought me back.
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Larry Hehn December 6, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Ooh yeah, pipe tobacco does that for me too, David. Not too many people I know have pipes any more, so it’s not something that I smell very often. How awesome to have that keepsake of your father. I’ll always remember the smell of my dad as he tucked me in to bed at night as a youngster. Priceless.


Peter Graham December 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

I also remember that walk in the forest; finding the young man, led to him by the smell. I’m glad I was only at the smelly end, and not the visual end of the line. That smell I had sniffed many times before, but that was the first time I had associated it with human death. Every time I detect that aroma, I’m brought back to the image of his family, in the makeshift trailer/headquarters that had been the centre of their world for so long. The look of relief and despair, both at the same time, flooding their faces.

At the same time, I also remember the smell of a birch wood cooking fire, with pancakes sizzling over it, bacon keeping warm in a pot beside. The smell of the smoke, the resin of the birchbark. This one brings me back to a time when, in the Boy Scouts, I learned how to face adversity and overcome difficulty; to stand for what is right, and discourage what is wrong. That smell reminds me of parts of my life that laid the foundation of the man have become.

Speaking of the man I have become, I wish I could remember all of the second (and third and fourth, …) chances I’ve had. I know they’ve been there, too numerous to name. I also know there are more waiting in the wings. That’s a good thing, because I also know that I’m going to need them!

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Larry.

P.S. sorry the sound failed during the Wise men’s routine – I was the one who installed the wire that went kafloowey. Good thing I got another chance to fix it – it worked flawlessly the next night! The wire itself didn’t get a second chance, however – I returned it and got my eleven bucks back 🙂


Larry Hehn December 8, 2010 at 12:19 am

Peter, if you had a blog I’d definitely subscribe. I’m thankful and blessed that you share your insight here, and am very proud to be your friend. No sweat about the faulty wire – I still think that nothing was lost because of it. In fact I believe that night’s performance was even more effective with that glitch than it would have been if all went smoothly.

Now I have to go get myself some pancakes and bacon…


April Rowen December 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Great post, Larry! Thank you!
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Larry Hehn December 8, 2010 at 12:20 am

My pleasure, April. Nice to hear from you again!


April Rowen December 8, 2010 at 3:46 am

Aw, thank you! Good to be missed!


Melissa Brotherton December 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm

My grandma passed away in April. My grandpa blessed us with her car, which had one of her old shirts in it. Somehow the shirt got put in our dirty clothes pile and washed. I was folding laundry, seven months after her death, and the site of her shirt mingled with our clothes gave me pause. I picked it up and smelled it, certain that any of her scent would have been washed out. Instead, I inhaled my grandma. I almost cried. I was so grateful God gave me that unexpected gift.
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Larry Hehn December 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Wow, what an amazing gift! Not only that her scent remained, but that it brought back such emotion. So glad you stopped by, Melissa. And thanks again for the recipe!


mo December 9, 2010 at 2:30 am

I sampled some 10 year old cheddar once and thought I was going to gag. Strong cheese still does that to me.

I am thankful that I got a second chance in grad school. Things got off to a rocky start…
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Larry Hehn December 9, 2010 at 2:43 am

I hear ya, Mo. I’m not a fan of old cheddar either, though my wife is. Thanks for sharing!


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