My mother loves people by feeding them. She stuffs them with good food-meat, usually, with potatoes and dark gravy. The kind of gravy that has become a lost art, perhaps because we spend less time cooking, less time learning our cuts of meat, less time pushing food on loved ones.
For many of us mothers, feeding people is our love language. When we are too intimidated to express our feelings, particularly when sadness in involved, we resort to casseroles. Bake chicken, cut up carrots, and roll out pie dough. These are the hand motions of a friend who longs to soothe a mother’s broken heart. And somehow, miraculously, they do.
When Lisa’s husband, Brett, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first person she called was Beth. Lisa’s voice was icy with shock, Beth recalls. Then suddenly, as she was speaking she broke down and sobbed. Beth could hear her heaving, gasping for air between cries, and Beth remembers the quick conclusion she drew as well: “With two small children, one only nine months and the other two and a half years old, I wondered how Lisa was going to make it. What about the kids? I thought about the sadness of those two small kids growing up without their dad, but then I felt sorrier for Lisa. She was so young. No one this young should have to endure this kind of trauma, I thought.
Little did Lisa realize in that first phone call what the next two years would bring or what an incredible friend she had in Beth.Being a good ten years older, Beth knew about life with small kids and life with older ones. She knew the difficulties that lay ahead of her friend in venturing to raise the two all by herself. And because she had a background in medicine, Beth also knew the gravity of Brett’s diagnosis. He would have two years tops, she knew, but she kept it to herself.
When Brett’s last days arrived and he left his home for the last time to go t the hospital, Lisa couldn’t let him go alone. So she went, too. And who stayed behind? Beth. Without being asked, she simply arrived at her door with a packed bag to stay with the children as long as she was needed. She literally stepped into Lisa’s shoes and took over where she left off, because that’s what extraordinary friends do. She cleaned, she cooked, she played with the kids, put them down for naps, and took them grocery shopping.
“During those last days, we went to the store a lot,” Beth recalls, “because I was in a serious cooking mode then. “I felt so helpless. I wanted to love Lisa the best I could, but words, hug, flowers, nothing did it. I don’t even know if food did it, but I do know one thing, that cooking at least made us all feel that some part of life- maybe the task of keeping alive- was moving forward. We had to all just keep moving forward. That‘s what cooking meals did for us all.