I’ve been thinking about death lately. I am afraid, yet hopeful, about the prospect of consciousness after life. I will like a chapter two to my brief humanly existence, but I also fear, that in this sequel, I will be written into a new plot with completely different characters. I appreciate personal accounts of impending death, be it of one’s own or of the loved ones, as I wanted perspectives, preferably one that can help me see the silver lining to the eternal separations with my parents and my soon-to-be husband. If that’s not possible, at least I wanted to know how others deal with the pain.
“One day—May 30—you’re in Brooklyn Fairway doing a big food shop to prepare for your husband’s return from climbing Mt. Rainer; the next day, the National Park Service is calling to say your husband has been killed… Life changes fast. I took the first flight to Seattle, and life as I knew it ended.”
Writer Lisa Kolb shared this story in Remedy Quarterly, a food magazine that accompanies all its recipes with personal stories. Kolb contributed a recipe for the chocolate chip cookies that her husband brought with him to his climbing trip. It was the last thing she ever made him.
After her husband was gone, Kolb wrote, she lost her appetite and her ability to cook, as she didn’t know how to do so for one. She ate more over time and she relearned, more slowly, the pleasures of cooking. She stopped preparing large, heavy dishes that she used to do for her husband and instead made salads or even just a glass of lemonade for herself. She still ate cereals in place of a proper meal, but that’s okay, she said:
“I have not regained all my weight. I cannot throw out a strawberry yoghurt—his strawberry yoghurt—that remains in the refrigerator. There are still bowls of cereals. But that’s OK. I will get there. For every bowl of cereal in front of the TV, there is a lovely soft-boiled egg breakfast at the table with the Sunday paper, or a warm mug of chickpea stew, hearty and fragrant, cradled in my hands as I read a book. I still make too much food, but that’s OK. I will save the leftovers for another day.”
I never baked, but I made Kolb’s cookies in honour of her husband. My biggest gripe about death is that life goes on for millions of others as if the deceased never stepped on earth before.
The cookies turned out to be rock hard — not unlikely to break a tooth if a popcorn had done that to mine. I screwed up because I used a blender, instead of a cake mixer, to cream the butter. I also measured flour, oatmeal and sugar by sight.
But that’s okay. The man I am about to spend the rest of my life with voluntarily reaches for my cookies-gone-wrong for breakfasts, and, whenever I dilly dally in the kitchen.
My food doesn’t always turn out well, but that’s okay, because this special someone would eat with so much glee I wonder what I’ve done to deserve him.
I still cannot imagine, after reading Kolb, how life, or death, would be, alone, but I learnt how to be grateful for the present.