Brown Gravy

This year won’t be an ideal Mother’s Day for my Mom. Though her children love her more than we could possibly express, she has a broken heart that we cannot fix. She is watching the love of her life go through the final stages of cancer. I know without asking that my Mom is privately wondering how many more days she has in my Dad’s company. Though she rarely shows it, I know that she is quietly grieving because her husband of 49 years lies in a hospital bed that we have set up in her guest room. I also know that she is coming to grips with the fact that life as she knows it will never be the same – we simply can’t go back.

Mom bravely sets her saddness aside as she cares for my Dad. No matter how grueling it is as his constant caregiver, she shows him a cheerful smile at all times and offers encouraging words to comfort him, though Dad can barely hear her due to acute hearing loss in these last days. For some reason, it makes me profoundly happy to see that she still tries to get him to eat, not much at this point, just simple things that might bring him comfort. They still share a cup of coffee each morning in his room, though Dad’s is served spoon-style, sip by sip.

Today I found a lone saucepan sitting on Mom’s stove top and I asked what it contained. “It’s gravy, silly.” she said. “Your Dad wanted mashed potatoes and gravy today.” I smiled. The brown gravy in that saucepan became the most precious thing in the world to me at that moment. Good food is such a wonderful source of comfort, no matter the situation; it helps us make our way over life’s inevitable rough spots. And sometimes when we can’t communicate as effectively as we’d like, for whatever reason, food helps us nurture the connections we are in fear of losing; it becomes the voice to our grief, allowing us to care for those we love most. Food becomes our universal language of love.

As you spend time with Mom this Mother’s Day, remember not only to cherish your time together but to appreciate her for all she brings into your life. Abraham Lincoln’s quote “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my Mother.” rings true for me as well. Without you, Mom, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Your servant’s heart is my inspiration and your brown gravy a precious gift. Thanks, Mom.

Note: I wrote this article last year for TMI magazine. Since that time, we have nearly made it through one year of “firsts” without my Dad. He passed away on May 21, 2009 and I know there has barely been a moment that Mom hasn’t thought of him. She is still grieving deeply, but takes each day as a new one and is bravely moving forward in this journey without Dad. I am always happy that she is quick to offer us homemade cookies or a new dessert she’s just baked when we visit. She finds comfort in baking for us and it’s a love language my family treasures at Grandma’s house.

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