June Challenge: Five Favorite Foods

Day Five of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt:  Share your five favorite foods or recipes.

I grew up in the South where Sunday dinner was delicious and church potlucks were prodigious.

If you were blessed to go to a church that had Fifth Sunday spreads, then you know what I mean.

On cement tables back of the church, good cooks pulled out all the stops and brought forth their most prized recipes for public consumption.

If you wanted a taste of Aunt Wilma’s cake or Aunt Mattie Lou’s beans, you had better be in the front of the line, because the best dishes were emptied fast.

So in honor of those warm memories, I share my five favorite church potluck foods:

Dessert First!  {One of the privileges of potlucks}

Banana Pudding-a southern staple, this creamy concoction is both beautiful and delicious. It often arrived to the buffet with a corner scooped out because someone HAD to taste it-just to make sure it was good.  

banana pudding

 

pound cake

Pound Cake-crunchy crust, moist inside and a perfect foil for fresh fruit or ice cream.  If you lived in a rural community it was made all the better wtih farm fresh egss, real butter and NEVER imitation vanilla.

 

Fried Chicken-before it was possible to pick up a box of chicken on almost any corner-good, iron skillet fried chicken was both an art and a treat.  Only the best cooks could manage to get the meat done, yet still moist and produce a crispy crust.

fried chicken

mac and cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese-full of cheesy goodness and oh, so different, than the stuff in the box! I’m sad that some children don’t even know it can be “homemade”.

 

Creamed Corn-fresh corn, picked and silked, then scalded and scraped from the cob.  Grandmama would pull a few bags from the freezer and cook them down in a pot with a little butter and salt.  You could taste summer and love in every bite.

creamed corn

 

I have fond memories of sitting on cement steps, swatting flies and eating delicious food surrounded by people I love.

I felt safe, protected, full and included.

My heart was assured that there would always be enough love, enough food and enough of everything to go around.

 

 

The Absence of His Presence is Everywhere

Something I’ve been learning in this grief journey is that loss is an ongoing event.

It’s not confined to the moment of death, the funeral, the burial or even the boxing up of belongings.  

I suffer loss every time there is a moment when Dominic would have been present, should have been present and isn’t here.

It happens when I need to ask him a question, get his opinion, long for his help or just want to hear his voice.   

It happens when I look at myself in the mirror and realize that the living mirror that was Dominic is gone.

There is so much more to his absence than just the hole in my heart.

I shared some of these feelings a few months ago:

A family isn’t just the sum of its parts.  It isn’t a simple equation that can be worked out on a chalkboard or around a dinner table-this person plus that person equals two persons.

A family is an organic mixture of personalities, relationships, strengths and weaknesses that exponentially influence one another. I always joked that our family was a ready-made committee.  Wherever we went we brought a fully staffed, action-ready army of six that spread out and triumphed over whatever challenge we faced.

You can read the rest here:  Minus More Than One

A Good Day

 

jm captain

 

Last Friday, my oldest son received his USAF captain’s bars.  True to form, his path to this new achievement was unique and memorable. I’m so very proud of him and of his commitment to excellence.

And that meant that he was leaving San Antonio and headed to Maxwell AFB for Commissioned Officer Training. So he was able to swing by home on Sunday!

 

photo (24)

Sunday afternoon, my kids presented me with this beautiful “Family of Love” necklace for Mother’s Day.  It has all their names and birthstones so I can wear them close to my heart.  I love it!

photo (22)

James Michael brought me flowers-lots of purple, my favorite color.

photo (21)

 

And then we were joined by Joe and Seve, two of Dominic’s good friends from Law School. Joe surprised me with this amazing handmade plate from his recent travels to Turkey. I appreciate the love and support of these fellows and their ongoing commitment to remember Dominic and honor our family.

 

We had Robbie and Jonica over for supper with their new daughter.  I got to cuddle this sweet baby and be reminded that love still lives and life goes on.

photo (19)

 

And no DeSimone adventure would be complete without an “emergency”.  While getting food ready and on the table, we discovered a minor plumbing problem that flooded the downstairs bathroom, the laundry area and into the garage (all downhill-literally and figuratively).

photo (23)

 

So while we girls ate supper, the men worked at repairs.

Just like old times-one boy went in one direction, another went the other way and Julian manned the homefront.  Thankfully, they were able to get things back in working order sooner rather than later.  But not before I exhausted our supply of 24 full-sized “clean-up” towels that were washed in bleach the next day!

 

photo (20)

The evening ended with lots of laughter and plenty of carbs.

And a rare opportunity for a group photo that had me surrounded by all my children within reach. (Thank you, Alison, for snapping the picture!)

We miss you, Dominic.

And we can never stand close enough to squeeze out the giant hole you’ve left.

But we are living like you lived-making the most of the moments-and loving each other.

boys

 

You Just Never Know

Just last week another mother in my community joined the ranks of those who bury a child. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning, her son was gone.

It happens every day.  

We toss a casual “see you later” to the person heading out the door without thinking it might be the last thing we say to them.

matters how you liv

 

I am determined not to live in fear of loss-even though I have experienced it first hand.

But I am also determined to live so that should I lose someone else, they will be assured of this:

 I love them and I value them.

 

 

I don’t take things for granted anymore-What if Tomorrow Never Came?

Bill of Rights for Grieving Mamas

One of our family’s inside jokes comes from a movie about the Civil War.  A young soldier questioned about why he’s fighting declares, “I’m fightin’ for my rights!”-except is sounds like he’s saying, “I’m fightin’ for my rats!”

So we often laugh back and forth when faced with combative situations by using that line.

You wouldn’t think that grieving would be one of them.  But it can be.

I’m kind of a touchy-feely person. One who will hug strangers, pat puppies and offer a hand whenever I see someone struggling.

So it has been a bit of a surprise to find out that some people really want me to keep my grief in the closet.  

They would rather I  hide my tears.  They have decided on an appropriate number of days, weeks, months for my grief to run its course and then it should be “over”.

Now, let me just say that I do not think I have the right to ruin someone else’s day.  

I make appropriate arrangements when asked to participate in special events.  If I can go and be certain I won’t draw attention away from the celebration, I do.  If I can’t, then I’m honest about it and find another way to contribute.

But I can’t spend my life in a bubble.

I’m inevitably going to be around others when a wave of grief hits me. Sometimes I will not be able to control my reaction.

And that’s OK…

So here’s what I believe to be my rights as a grieving mom (other grieving parents may disagree-and that’s o.k.):

mr rogers and feelings

I have a right to my feelings. I am open to someone who has demonstrated sincere compassion to help me work through them  or to share their concerns if they see me heading toward destructive expression of them.  But it is not up to someone else to validate my feelings about burying my son.

I have a right to draw boundaries.  So much of my energy is being sapped by working through grief that I just do not have the resources to deal with everyday drama.  I care deeply about the other people in my life and I will absolutely be there for them when they really need me.  But I can’t be a sounding board for every little thing.

I have a right to talk about my son.  He is still my child.  He is still part of my life and my family’s life.  Most mamas talk about their children all the time.  I talk about my living children and I will continue to talk about the child I miss.

I have a right to cry.  Tears make most folks a little uncomfortable.  I acknowledge that and believe me, I try to hold them back.  But when they fall-I won’t hide them as if it’s shameful.  I won’t draw attention to myself, but I won’t always slink away either.

memories tears

I have a right to laugh.  Humor still moves me. And a belly laugh is good medicine.  But don’t mistake a moment of laughter as a signal that I’m “better”.  I am healing, slowly, but I am not whole.

I have a right to NOT talk about how I feel.  Life still happens and every emotion I experience is not necessarily tied to missing my son.   I don’t always need to “talk about it”. Sometimes, like everyone, I just need time to process and get over something.

I have a right to celebrate or not celebrate, participate or not participate in holidays, birthdays, remembrance days or any other special day or occasion however I am able-even if it means changing long-standing traditions or routines.  I do my very best to live up to the expectations and needs of the people that are close to me.  I want to have birthday parties, exchange gifts, celebrate graduations and weddings and other major milestones.  But sometimes I might have to attack these gatherings in a slightly different way.  I’m not the same person I was before Dominic left us and I can’t always do things the way I used to.

I have a right to be heard.  I don’t expect nor do I want to be the center of every decision or every event.  But I have a right to express my opinion, I’m not invisible.  And no one knows what is best for me except ME.  It’s easiest if people just ask me what will be most helpful instead of assuming that I would or wouldn’t like this or that.

Navigating the death of a child is a treacherous journey.  I understand that those who have not travelled this path may not think about how hard it is and some of the little things that can make it easier or harder.

I am so thankful for the ones who try.

friends pick us up

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

In recent years I’ve noticed more awareness of how hard it can be for women who struggle with infertility to walk into church on Mother’s Day and I am glad.

Pews filled with other women’s children and bulletin announcements, public recognition of “oldest mother”, “youngest mother”, “mother with the most children” along with the obligatory sermon based on Proverbs 31 conspire in a litany of accusation against the barren womb.

Some of these women choose to stay home.  Others may be silently lifting a prayer for grace or may, like Hannah, be begging God for a child.

As a bereaved mother, this is a complicated holiday for me too.

I am so, so thankful for all my children.

I received each as a gift from God and treasure them in my heart.

Being a mother has been and continues to be the most demanding and most rewarding thing I have ever done or ever hope to do.

I used to look forward to Mother’s Day.

Not so much because it celebrated me as a mom, but because it was a moment to pause, reflect and remember how wonderful it is to be surrounded by my children.

But there’s no train from here to Heaven, no telephone line that can bridge the gap between where I am and where Dominic is.

I will never again be able to gather my children around our earthly table, see each of their faces, hug their necks.

So bear with me.

  • Let me be happy for the children I can see and sad for the one I can’t.
  • I might join in with singing, or I might just close my eyes and remember Sundays past when we were sitting in the same pew, together and strong.
  • If you see me rush out of the sanctuary at the end of service, please don’t stop me.  Let me go-I may have held back sobs during the closing prayer and need to escape and let them loose.

And if you think of me and other mothers who have buried children, pray for me and for them.

Pray that we finish strong, that we persevere and that we continue to cling to the One Who can carry us through the rest of our days with hope and courage.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Romans 15:13 AMP

 

 

 

Helping My Children Walk Through Grief

Bereaved parents often have several tasks before them in the days and months and years following the death of a child.

One of them is to help their surviving children navigate loss.

I have three earthbound children.  And they are grieving.

Their world changed in the same instant mine did.  Their hearts are broken too.

I found it hard to watch the pain I saw written on the faces of my kids.  Harder still to know that as much as I wanted to be the guide in this situation, I was as lost as they were. My mama instincts demanded that I “make it better” -but I was and am, powerless to do that.

So I settled on being honest.

I decided that I wouldn’t hide my sorrow or my struggle in an attempt to protect them.

Because, really, how could I protect a heart that had been introduced so forcefully to the truth that WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL?

How could I try to manage their sorrow when mine was overflowing?

I acknowledged the pain-the pain of losing Dominic;  the pain of not being able to say, “good-bye”; the pain of never knowing exactly what had happened; the pain of feeling like God had closed His eyes or looked the other way while Dominic ran off the road; and the pain of watching each other in pain with no way to soothe or stop it.

I didn’t draw boundaries around how they were supposed to behave.  

I asked that we not hurt one another in our sorrow-that we not cast blame, that we not lash out-but other than this request, I made room for tears, shouts, pounding of fists or whatever else we needed to do to let out some of the emotion bottled up inside.

I do not insist that they give Sunday School answers to tough questions.  I understand that they are struggling as much as I am. We are all dissecting our faith and our understanding of Who God is, what He is doing, and whether we can trust Him with our hearts again.

We talk-about Dominic and about their lives.  I try to listen.  Sometimes I’m not as good at that as I would hope to be.

I respect their need for space or their need for companionship.  I haven’t tried to be the sole source of support for any of them.

I’m not offended if they choose to express grief in ways that are different than my own.

I am well aware that it is likely they will carry this loss for more years than I will and that they must find their own way to bear that burden.

They haven’t only lost a brother, they’ve also lost the family in which they grew up, the parents they used to have and the sense of safety that pervades childhood.  

Their eyes are opened to the fact that bad things happen.

And sometimes bad things happen with no apparent reason and absolutely no forewarning.

We love one another.  We acknowledge the impact Dom’s life and his leaving has left on us. We don’t sweat the small stuff (most of the time).

And we focus on making sure each one of us makes it through.

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

David Ogden Stiers

[Context]

This picture was taken for a story in UAB Magazine featuring my husband and oldest son who graduated together in December 2009. You can read the original article here: Like Father, Like Son

It is one of my very favorites. I was surrounded by my family, filled with pride and promise.

This is how I like to think of us-together and strong. 

Our circle is broken now-it is a continuing struggle to figure out how to navigate life in the wake of our loss.

And some of the greatest challenges present themselves in unexpected ways.

Redefining how to think about and present my family to the world led me to the solution presented in this post:

[Context]