Deals, Dares & Reviews To Help You Savor Your World.
My friend Chris died this week. Unable to conquer his personal demons, he took his own life and left the rest of us to try to solve the puzzle of what and how and why didn’t any of us see it coming. The past few days have been a series of unhappy discoveries, little bits of ghastly, after-the-fact information that we all must scrutinize, alone, inside the darkness of our own hearts: it was pills. He planned it for days. He sent everyone a final, cryptic text before he died
Our first instinct, once the numbness and horror began to wear off, was to run to the kitchen. In a primordial need to comfort ourselves and the others who knew Chris, Ham and I started planning a small, simple memorial dinner to be held later this week. We chose a home-spun menu that would hug the souls of our guests: pan-fried chicken, potato salad studded with bits of bacon, fresh corn on the cob, buttermilk cornbread, strawberry shortcake. We invited his friends, co-workers, and the woman he left behind to come sit around our table and feast together one last time in Chris’s honor. I’m sure the wine will flow as we all swap stories late, late, late into the evening. (Chris was often endearing and sometimes exasperating and there are plenty of stories to tell.)
But this whole thing got me thinking: what is it about the loss of a loved one that cries out for such a feast? Why must we have a meal in order to properly mourn? Is it the very act of eating that draws us to the table — that mundane, sometimes mindless thing we must all do, every day, in order to survive? Or is it the gathering together of the family left behind that means so much when someone departs our midst? Is it the ritualistic opportunity to send the dead along to the next world well-fed and in the company of those who loved them?
In other words, is the funeral feast for the living, or for the dead?
We’ll miss Chris. It’ll be a long time before any of us feel normal again, if we ever really do at all. We’ll have to learn to manage our grief day by day. We’ll have to find a way to process the guilty knowledge that we were blithely unaware that someone we cared about simply could not face one more day on this earth. We’ll have to remind ourselves to treasure all the people around us, to hold fast to those moments and memories that become so precious and irreplaceable when someone dies.
But first, we shall eat fried chicken. And we shall prove to ourselves that life, indeed, goes on.