So here we are again, at yet another holiday in the “after” life… only this one for me is very different. Firstly, I’m in Ohio, not Texas. Mike, Shelby and I are up early. The two of them are in the kitchen starting to cook up a feast for Easter while I write this. In about 5 hours, Mike’s family will be over and we will be doing a whole new kind of Easter. It’s the first year this holiday hasn’t been done at his parent’s house, something we decided on a whim. So we are taking over making much of the food and doing all the egg hiding for Shelby’s cousins. I would have thought this would be overwhelming for me… but it has been the opposite. More of a mixture of the happy and the hard. A blending of the past and the present. And in a few minutes, I will be baking a cake.
The busyness of preparing for Easter has kept me busy the last few days, which have been good considering I have another milestone tomorrow: Drew’s Birthday. I think I needed the distraction. It’s also helped keep my mind off other hard stuff, like the fact that this is the first year since Drew died that I am not spending Easter with his family down at the ranch in Texas. I feel torn, and as though I wish I could be in two places at once.
I broke down a bit last night once going to bed and finally having space for my mind to wander. For so many reasons. We’d spent the day cleaning his house. We bought some new outdoor lights and some flowers to spruce the place up. Just ordinary domestic things… but things Drew and I never got to do because we didn’t have a house or live together yet. The sadness of being so far away from his family today… not to mention so far away from them tomorrow - on his birthday - is so very hard too. We have always celebrated his birthday together as a family. It’s painful to be so far away. We will have to suffice with phone calls and skype, which will be okay, but it is indeed bittersweet. There are just a myriad of things bringing up emotion.
So what am I doing with it all? How am I making it through this? The usual ways… occasional breakdowns, cry-fests, moments of overwhelm are present. And the moments of remembering to embrace all the people I do still have. But the main thing I am going to do this morning… is bake.
You’re wondering what a cake has to do with grief. Well, firstly, it’s a lemon bundt cake… a particular cake that Drew’s mom and I have made for the past few years for Easter. It reminds me of good memories with his family. Bundt cakes in general remind me of my mom and grandmother, both also gone now. Many a holiday we had them there, covered in gooey icing, at the table. Then there are the memories of baking with my sister and my dad, or cooking together with Drew in his Dallas apartment. As I’ve sat here this morning thinking over the idea of this cake, I realized it was a pretty good metaphor for how we can create traditions in our “after” life that weave all of our past into it. This cake has flour and sugar. It has lemon juice and milk and eggs and vanilla. There are a lot of different ingredients that go into making it so delicious inside. Without any one of them, the cake wouldn’t taste as sweet and wonderful as it does.
Like that cake, there are many ingredients that make our lives rich and beautiful. We need all the ingredients for it to work and be it’s best. This includes the ones we’ve lost. Trying to build a new life then is much like baking a cake… we have to remember to add in all the parts to make the whole. When we create new traditions and new lives that include all the right ingredients, both past and present, we are able to live on in a way that keeps them with us and also opens our hearts towards the future.
So today, I am doing just that. I am making the lemon bundt cake because it is filled with our good memories at the ranch. I am giving Shelby and her cousins confetti eggs - a Texas/Mexican tradition that apparently no one in the midwest has heard of. This afternoon, she and her cousins will be running around the yard smashing hollowed eggs filled with confetti on each other and laughing wildly… the way my siblings and I did growing up. I am making green bean casserole the way my mom did. Mixing up all of these ingredients, both from my past and present, into one beautiful, painful, joyful, bittersweet recipe for life.
Sending you loves comfort today, and hoping that this inspires you to make certain that you are using the full recipe of your life on holidays and all the other days, too. I think I will get moving on that myself. Time to start that cake…