Something to Consider: Pondering Meaning and Why I Wrote a Food Memoir

If you were to die tomorrow, what’s the one thing that you’d be sad to leave unfinished?

It was the question my sister posed the morning of our cousin’s funeral. She’d been with us only two weeks before as we moved through the grief of our father’s passing. Then a freak accident caused her death at the age of 64. Too young.

I knew instantly that I would quit my teaching job. I loved the work, but the 90 minute commute and the energy that I poured into my students took its toll on my own family. My daughter only had two years left at home and I wanted to be there for all of it.

I wanted to write a cookbook, a memoir of my family of origin, where I’d learned to cook and to hone my skills around a 60” round butcher block table. I was compelled to tell the stories behind the foods we ate, and the recipes we celebrated with, and of the family that was no more.

In a way, “Celebrations from the Round Table” was a grief project. Working through the recipe cards written in my mom and dad’s own handwriting seemed to marinate me in memories. It was hard work, emotional work.

It was, in the moment, a way to focus the grief of what I’d lost in the passing of my parents. It helped me to channel all my feelings into something constructive, because when something happens it’s my nature to want to get into action, to do something. I’m not very good at sitting with my feelings.

This week my world has once again been rocked by the loss of two people I knew and the question my sister asked a few years ago has come back around. 

What would I be sad to see unfinished if I were to die tomorrow?

This time the answer is not as immediate. I need to sit with my feelings and reflect on where my life is today, and where I want it to be going.  It’s that age-old question we tend to ask in the face of death-

What is life about? What are we here for?

I am sad, and this time I’m more willing to be still with myself and my feelings. 

My answer today seems to land close to a quote by Erma Bombeck-

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, I used everything you gave me.”

I know God made me a teacher. It is the special way He has gifted me, and I use that talent in my business as a cooking coach, and in my job as a school counselor where I teach self-awareness and social-emotional skills. It still feels like what I am called to do.

The year ahead holds many changes including the upcoming marriage of my firstborn and my daughter moving away to college, leaving us with an empty nest. I’ll continue to reflect and correct course as the Spirit moves.

What about you? What’s something you’d be sad to leave unfinshed? Let’s strive to do the things we’re called to do, in spite of our fears and doubts. What is that thing for you? Something to consider.