I grew up in a town of 1500 people in a close-knit Maritime community. When someone died, had a baby, or was convalescing my mother, grandmothers and friends took loving care of them by cooking for them and dropping things by. A little visit ensued. Support and love were shared. Healing happened. Flash forward to the new millenium. Have we lost such caring traditions? No. In fact I think we are improving on them and here’s a beautiful example of what I mean; an example that’s unfolding even as I write this.
Friday a friend went to the hospital with grave difficulty breathing after a prolonged “cold”. He had been well enough to play hockey on Wednesday. He died Saturday afternoon (that cold was in fact a deadly pneumonia). He was a 45-year-old triathlete. He leaves behind a devoted wife and three little boys. How will they begin again? How will they go on? I’m getting vertigo just thinking about this kind of devastation.
Life’s preciousness and fragility is proven once again. My first response to any crisis is to get in the kitchen and start cooking. It is what I learned from my family, my community of origin. I’m happy to tell you that even though I live in the big city of Calgary, Alberta now (population 1.2 million) there are neighbourhoods and communities of caring here just like back home in the Maritimes. No one has the patent on caring. Wherever you find humans you’ll find compassion.
What is different circa 2013 is my neighbours have technology available to aid us and organize us in our caring. This morning I got an email from a neighbour inviting me to sign up at Take Them a Meal and get into the queue of caring to take my turn taking this sweet family a meal. The website is so well-organized that within two minutes I scrolled down the list of all the neighbours that had signed up, saw what they are all making, and signed myself up for the first available date on Monday, May 6. I wonder how many of my Mom’s peers ended up with the same tuna casserole or mac and cheese everyday and didn’t have the heart to tell their friends they couldn’t stand to look at another.
I’m totally impressed with the offerings my neighbours are taking to this grieving friend. They will provide solace by providing supper. Our widowed friend’s brain will be in shock, her sleep will be affected, she’ll be doing well to somehow cope with getting three little boys off to school each day. Knowing she won’t have to meal plan, shop and cook will be a small way to give her some relief.
If you live in the United States you can also order beautiful meals to be delivered on the Take them a Meal website under the Send them a Meal link. Here in Calgary my friend chef Judy Wood of Meez Fast Home Cuisine will deliver meals in a similar way. I once collected money from my french class, looked through the Meez menus and set up a meal delivery plan for one of our classmates who was having chemo. It allowed us to deliver meals that were coordinated, tasty and that the family would like.
Savouring food and savouring life are inseparable for me. When someone’s life is gone, we grieve but we are also given the gift of savouring all our memories of life with them. Grieving families need to be able to focus on that. They need to save their energy for where healing begins; in those tiny details; the memories of their loved one. We can use our hands to cook, clean and do chores. Any help we can give them by providing comfort through food that is nutritious and delicious is a vital part of caring for them. Having a website that provides an easy system (for free) to organize our efforts is a very cool thing. Kudos to the team at Take them a Meal for developing such a contributive, caring and solution-oriented idea. Maybe we’ll see the cleaning and car-pooling sign up versions of this idea next?
In the meantime, I’m forwarding the email I got this morning to four more friends that I didn’t see on the list. I know they’ll want a chance to demonstrate their care as well. We all appreciate being given the chance to help and I’m not the only one who savours food and savours life.