My dad was unconscious in the ICU for about ten days. During that time, I would be there with him for long periods, often overnight. I would come home to shower and sleep, and I had very little thought of food. Sometimes I would come home to find that friends had left me soup, a casserole, cookies, fruit, energy bars, my favorite coffee…not to mention cards and flowers.
There may be no gesture more beautiful than to say: I know you are too overwhelmed to take care of yourself right now, and so we are going to help you.
We want to nourish you, they said.
I was so grateful.
After the funeral service, life went on around us. I went back to work, and I resumed my usual life patterns and responsibilities, even though doing so felt disrespectful in some way, even grotesque. How could I proceed as if the world had not been irreparably changed?
Somehow I felt as though I was supposed to bounce right back.
Suck it up.
It felt strange to accept offers of meals. I’ll even go so far as to say I felt ashamed. Like it meant people thought me weak, or incapable.
What I was, though, was exhausted, sad, and preoccupied by worry over the emotional wellbeing of my family.
Yet, my pride wanted me to say to these gracious offers of food, “No thank you. I’ve got it handled.”
And then, someone near and dear to me said something very important.
She said, “JUST SHUT UP AND TAKE THE FOOD. DON’T BE AN IDIOT.” (More or less.)
She said, “People just want to do something nice for you. Everyone feels helpless and horrible when bad things happen to good people. This is something people can do for you and your family. They want to do it for you. Just say, “THANK YOU.”
She was right, of course. People have just wanted to help; to nourish us in some way, during a time when nourishing ourselves has felt like an afterthought.
The beautiful thing about meals that come from a place of love and compassion, is that they nourish more than the body. They nourish the heart and the soul as well.
I am very grateful.
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(Pictured: Beef stroganoff soup made by Katie Hellendrung at www.sweetmagnoliasoups.com and gifted to us by a friend. Check out her beautiful website. She delivers her gourmet soups on Aquidneck Island twice per week.)