Saturday, 17 September 2016

Grief and learning to say Goodbye...again

I have been absent since January...and what a difficult 9 months it has been.  My father fell ill shortly after my last post and life quickly became overwhelming.

In February the doctors told Dad this would be his last birthday.  Then they retracted the prognosis. Little did any of us know that we were embarking on a hellish roller coaster ride, and its end would prove more painful and horrible than the ride itself.

My father approached dying as he approached life...with calm dignity.  He took this last leg of his life journey to teach us the lessons we would need to take us through the rest of our lives without him there to guide us.

He wasn't a saint - he was human.  At times he got frustrated and impatient.  So did we.  But as we had throughout our lifetime together, we always came back to one another with apologies where appropriate, unconditional love unscathed, and a stronger determination to make things better.

I was always so afraid of my parents dying.  I think we all are.  It is such a scary prospect to lose your parents, especially when you share a loving and close relationship.  I lost my mother slowly, over a period of 14 years, to Alzheimer's Disease.  The loss was more pronounced in the early years, when she was still alive in body but was being robbed of her memory and cognitive ability.  So when she died, it was painful, but also a relief - her many years of suffering were finally over.

Losing my father was different.  It was more sudden, there was little time to come to terms with his condition and our fate.  He succumbed to cardiac amyloid - a form of blood cancer that deposits plaque into the organs (in his case, his heart) causing them to stop functioning.  He died a relatively painless death, and I thank G-d for that.  But the doctors gave us a time frame of 3 to 6 months.  And though I know it was only an estimate, for some reason I held on tightly to that time line, like it was my lifeline rather than his.  And when he died 5 weeks following his prognosis, all I could think was "there's been a mistake!! We still have 5 months!!".  But there was no mistake.  His heart simply stopped on the morning of May 6th, 2016, and he was gone.  Just like that, I had lost my friend.

True to his character, he taught by example, and I learned by osmosis.  The life lessons just sunk in over time.  To his dying day, with his heart weakened, and his body fighting to quit, he persevered, refusing a wheelchair and insisting on using a walker...pressing on each day to build up his strength. Only now, some 19 weeks after his passing, can I write about it, and share this profound loss with you.   Only now, some 19 weeks later, am I finally able to pull myself from the depths of grief to which I unwillingly plummeted.  Only now am I able to begin to say goodbye and begin to pull myself out from under the fog and haze of grief that has weighed me down for 133 long days...

Throughout my lifetime, Dad would remind me that the sun will rise again.  That the darkness will fade and light will shine through.  He would encourage me, telling me that we all encounter difficult and challenging periods - angst, heartbreak, worries, health challenges...but you have to persevere, to get on with it.  He was right...and I have.  It doesn't get better...but you get better at it.

So, as I begin to move forward I can feel the healing process taking hold.  I am baking, cooking and preserving sauces and vegetables for the winter, and feeling the urge to blog new recipes, share new stories.

But before I resume my regular posts, I want to invite you to visit the blog I started as a tribute to him: "My Father's Treasure", which will document some of his talents and passions, including his photography and sketches.  My His Memory Be For a Blessing...I know it is for me 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bringing in 2016 with Bubbie Lou's Amazing Apple Sauce

Happy 2016! A new year is upon us, filled with the promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. 

I greeted the new year - my head swimming with thoughts of all that lay ahead in the coming days, weeks, and months.  I prepared myself to bid Sara adieu for another semester away at start my final semester of paralegal watch Rebecca embark on another dance competition season.  There is so much to look forward to, and so much to do in so little what else is new?!?

It's been said that God doesn't give you more than you can handle...and after the second half of 2015 I know that to be true.  I won't bore you will all the trials and tribulations faced by our family, but suffice it to say that things did not get easier following my mother's death.

But I try to remain an optimist and see the glass as being half full.  And having Sara home for the holidays was wonderful.  In September we packed her up and watched as she set off on her own life journey as a University student living hours away from home.  It was hard to say goodbye...for all of us.  But daily life and routines took over, and once again our worlds were "intense".  So this winter break was a "mechayeh" (life reviving) and I think we were all sad to see it come to an end.  

I did get a chance to try a new Bubbie Lou recipe, chosen by Sara before she sauce...and how simple it is to make!  It was a little sweet for her liking, but that's an easy fix - just reduce the sugar.  I especially love the terms Bubbie used in her recipe - "scant" (which I actually looked up to make sure I had it right!) and her little note in parentheses (Lift from top to bottom).  I halved the recipe for my first try, as reflected in the photos to follow, but it definitely wasn't enough.  I would suggest making the full recipe if you're feeding a family of four.

"scant" 3/4C of sugar

Full 1 1/2C water

4 apples (peeled and sliced)

Boil syrup for a few minutes then add sliced apples, boil
slowly for 20 minutes, lifting from the top to the bottom

The end result - yum!

An aerial view...

Maybe it's because losing my mother is still so fresh and raw, but these little notes and phrases contained in their recipes bring me so much comfort.  They make me feel like Bubbie Gertie, Bubbie Lou, Auntie Etta and Mom are reunited...and together they are watching over us...Sara, Becca and me, watching us peruse their recipes and bake with their tools. I envision them smiling and kvelling and imagine that one day I will be together with them join and watch as my own daughters and granddaughters come alive and fall in love with cooking and baking...

Mom, Auntie Etta and Bubbie Lou
(this is how I imagine they are reunited,
loving and laughing, as they did in life)
So from my family to yours, here's a recipe that can be enjoyed warm or cold.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  

Until next time, I wish you a happy and healthy 2016 filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Bubbie Lou's Amazing Apple Sauce 

  •       1½C sugar
  •       full 3C water
  •       8 apples cut in slices 

  •         Boil syrup for a few minutes
  •         Add sliced apples
  •         Boil slowly for 20 minutes, lifting apples from top to bottom
  •         Remove from heat and mash (using potato masher or a handheld immersion blender)