Community, Mourning, & Food: Let Them Eat Pie

For the second time in less than two months, J & I found ourselves this week surrounded by family in mourning. We drove to Western Pennsylvania and gathered with family from far away and from close by. We mourned, yes, but we also celebrated; cried, but also laughed; we hugged, and we remembered, and we ate.

Did we ever eat.

On Wednesday evening, the day we arrived, so did a vat of potato salad like I had never seen. At least ten pounds of potatoes lost their lives and quite a few onions, too–after seven of us ate it for dinner, along with a delivered meatloaf, only 1/5 of the salad had disappeared.

Two full dinners arrived on Thursday, and by Thursday evening, we had more loaves of bread on the counter than people in the house. We had soup and beef stew, cole slaw and salad, lemon cake and raspberry bars. And every time we turned around, more food arrived: breakfast food, dinner food, desserts, desserts, desserts. By late Thursday night, an aunt joked that nobody had stopped by in awhile, and within a few minutes the doorbell rang. Breakfast casserole and muffins!

In days like this, we know what community is.

Grandma had lived in the same town for her near-ninety years. She and Grandpa went to the same church for the sixty-one years they were married. They raised their kids here, and many of their grandkids. This is the community J has known his whole life. And for the last ten years, it is a community that has welcomed me in, too.

One of my favorite moments of the last week came on Thursday afternoon. Some of us had been outside in the cold looking at a renovation project, and when we stumbled inside, we found that three pies had been delivered: a cherry rhubarb, a coconut cream, and a blackberry-blueberry combination. As the pies were pulled from their baskets, we realized that they were still warm.

Grandpa was sitting at the table in the kitchen, and we were all standing or sitting around him, marveling at the pie excellence in front of us.

And then the patriarch requested a piece of pie.

Right now.

Before dinner.

And so the pies were cut, first just the cherry rhubarb. Then the coconut cream. Then the berry. It became clear that if we wanted to eat pie, we’d better grab it while we could.

That is the image of community I will carry with me in the coming months: Grandpa, requesting pie in the middle of the afternoon, and the rest of the family surrounding him, happy to oblige.

Time Marches On & A Prayer for My Community

Last week, I got a haircut. As we counted out the six weeks to my next appointment, the gal who cuts my hair said, “Let’s see… six weeks… that will be December 23.”

December 23.

I’m sort of still in shock about that, to be honest. And I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a few minutes of every day since then taking a dozen deep breaths in disbelief that the time has sped by so quickly this fall.

It’s been a tough one for me, friends, and for some of my favorite people. Within a single month, some of the folks closest to me experienced heart-breaking loss. And then I experienced heart-breaking loss. And then another friend, even more heartbreaking.

And time just kept marching on, as it does, while I sat on the couch and tried to think coherent thoughts. I haven’t been able to write about how I’ve felt over the last ten weeks, and as a result haven’t written at all, about anything. No journaling, despite my hours spent staring at blank paper. No poems.

And then last week, I was asked to write a prayer for our church service.

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