A Cousin with a Casserole

I washed the last casserole dish and stacked it with others on the kitchen counter. What a genuine kindness each represented and the many meals provided to my family this week sincerely helped ease some distress. Daddy died one week ago today. His heart issues had recently worsened and at almost 81 years old he could handle no more. This past week is a dismal blur and a void that can’t be filled has become brutally obvious. I could write volumes on Daddy and maybe at some point I will. With emotions still so close to the surface I wouldn’t do him justice right now with an attempt.

It was a wee hour of the morning when Daddy died, so friends and extended family didn’t learn of his death until some hours later. As early afternoon arrived, so did the first wave of cousins bringing food. They weren’t asked to, they did so because that’s what you kindly do. They quietly appeared with bags of drinks, casseroles, containers of this or that, and even an entire baked ham. There was no fanfare, just a solemn presentation of the tangible evidence of their caring.  Mama, distraught over Daddy’s death and drained by her own health issues said more than once that she was overwhelmed by the instant show of support.

The number of tasks to attend to following a death saps everyone of everything and attention to meals gets lost in priorities. The gifts of food that flowed into Mama’s kitchen were appreciated more than anyone can know. Each day this past week saw yet another meal supplied by cousins, aunts and uncles, or one of many family friends. It seemed that every person who dropped by to express sympathy did so as they handed us a gift of food. With so many of us staying at Mama’s house, what a blessing that really was!

Often over the years I saw Mama leave the house with food she’d made for other grieving families, but I’m astounded by what I’ve seen come into her house this week. The meals thankfully filled a basic need for our family, but every dish was also a sincere expression of love. We had many things to worry about and still do, of course, but whether we had enough food in the house was never one of them. To come home to waiting meals after talking to the funeral director for hours or spending a long evening at the funeral home was a true comfort.

I would imagine that taking food to a grieving family preoccupied by sorrow and the business of death is probably ages old, all over the world. On a personal level there was something so encouraging about seeing people, many were friends of Daddy’s the rest of us didn’t even personally know, come through the back door with food and condolences. The act of providing meals to a grieving family is such a basic and purely kind way to help.

All who stopped by have their own lives to manage, their own issues to deal with, but they stopped by just the same. Among the many people who so kindly looked out for us I saw elderly women who had difficulty walking but who walked anyway just to bring us a meal. An elderly man Daddy knew for decades brought a cake to Mama. He tried to speak but his crying prevented it so he simply handed her the cake and walked away. Yesterday I saw Daddy’s older brother, arms full, struggling to open the door to the porch. Before I could get there to help he had quietly slipped a watermelon into the extra refrigerator and gone on his way. At the funeral home, a high school friend I hadn’t seen in years handed me a wrapped platter full of brownies as she hugged me. Maybe something extra is communicated when condolences are accompanied by food?

I wish I could properly articulate how much it helped my family to see the parade of familiar faces come through the back door during such a strange, sad week. It was wonderful, beautiful, awesome, and all of those other words we tend to overuse but which in this case are completely appropriate.

During such a stressful, gloomy time, I was reminded that the kindness, caring, and love I have seen my family and friends give to others over the years is still very much there. They rose to this occasion and their generosity and presence this week helped us deal with the sorrow, no question about it.

We never expected more than the “I’m sorry.” which we heard many times, but there was something innately sweet and comfortingly familiar about a tentative tap on the back door followed by a cousin with a casserole.

Whether family or friend, what each person held between two pot holders was more than just supper. It was an extension of their caring, an expression of their love, and a show of support that no one in my family will soon forget.

Stuart M. Perkins

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68 Comments

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68 responses to “A Cousin with a Casserole

  1. Sorry about your loss. Writing is great therapy.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. You write beautifully. I’d like to hand you a virtual spinach and chicken pasta casserole. It is delicious and I’ve made it many times 🙂

  3. Very well narrated. I vowed I would never say I’m sorry to one who grieves again. The words fall just way too short. In case you haven’t seen…this is the gift I feel I cAn give you:

    http://aholisticjourney.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/bereft-poetry-reborn/

  4. Really sorry to hear about your loss. Glad to hear that there are people around you and your family, looking out for you. God bless you all.

  5. merrysusanna

    I saw you read my blog and for that I thank you. And for your blog posts, I thank you! Just spent an enjoyable half hour in the middle of a busy day, reading some. You are doing what you set out to do; reaching us through your observations of everyday life. Much sympathy on the loss of your father.

  6. Very well written. It was moving and beautiful. In India, particularly South India where I grew up, people bring sweets and groceries. They don’t make the dish but bring every possible thing needed to make anything under the son. Following a death, there is always communal prayers and so the sweets are distributed amongst people who prayed for the departed. Also, everyone helps out the grieving family by cooking them meals at their house. The idea behind is to have people in the house all the time and not leave the grieving family alone. I think its the difference in culture that makes some bring prepared dishes to the house and other enter the kitchen to make those meals. At the end of the day, the spirit of what they do is one and the same.

  7. I am sorry for your loss. Hold on to the comfort of memories, perhaps one day they will be the stories that you share. Thank you for reminding us that “simple” acts of kindness do make a difference in the lives of others.
    Sincerely,
    Lynne

  8. sodapop

    I can’t imagine how tiring the past few days must have been for you, Stuart. I hope you manage to find some meaning, solitude and peace in the days to come. Take care.

  9. My best thoughts and sympathy. And well written even through the grief and jumble of life.

  10. Belated condolences on your loss. But you have written a wonderful story and these expressions of caring mean so much. It is a healthy first step in your grieving process. When my father passed away a couple years ago I wrote a blog about the many Mass Cards we received, though I am not Catholic, I found it comforting. Whether it is food or Mass Cards, just the fact that others think of us in our time of sorrow is something to be grateful for.

  11. I like the example of the man slipping the watermelon into the fridge and then going on his way. That shows humility. Too often, it seems that I find myself sacrificing and waiting, as if for a receipt. To simply do good and move on is a humble act that we can admire.

    • You’re right about that. And it was a very touching thing to see. He did a kind act, left, and never knew whether anyone would know it was he who did it – and he didn’t care about that! That’s the touching thing. Thanks for commenting!

  12. mgsunshine

    Very touching. Sorry that you lost your dad.

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