Saturday, October 17, 2009

A day full of life

My day started out going to the funeral of a dear friend's mom. A mom that had been one of my neighborhood moms. I'd hung out and eaten at their house too many times to count, and in fact just recently blogged that I ate lamb for the first time at their house. I endearingly called her Mrs. O., because calling her by her last name seemed too formal, yet I could never call her by her first name. 

God it was sad. And yet watching her six kids and her fourteen grandchildren talk about her life made my heart feel full, almost bursting, from the fact that one person can have such an effect on so many people. She was this extraordinary ordinary person who raised six kids, often alone while her husband fished up in Alaska, who survived an accident in her midlife so extreme, that she made it into the Book of World Records, and who, quite simply, loved every minute of life. She was a force in the universe. I imagine that somehow the solar system will be a little dimmer without her.

At the memorial, we listened to beautiful and heartfelt rememberences. I wanted to stay to hear them all, but I had my mother-in-law arriving at the airport, and was catering a wedding today. So I jumped in the car and headed to the restaurant to get the staff working on the packout (they were way ahead of me), and to get picked up by Eric and Grandma B.

It was a joy to see "the other grandma" and welcome her to our home. She met our little El in person for the first time. After a brief visit, I zoomed back to Pete's to finish packing out for the wedding.

The wedding was beautiful. They'd decked it out in a cool retro-travel theme, with homebrew bottles for the guests, and other details that made it stand out.

What struck me though, when they got the the speeches, was how much weddings and funerals are the same. At both we celebrate life with family and friends, food and drink, and by sharing stories. At weddings we tell stories of how the two met and stories that will help them in their new life together. Likewise at funerals, we tell stories about our loved ones to remember and celebrate their life. But like the send-offs we give to the fresh faced wedding couples, memorial stories help us too. We can live our own lives better by emulating those qualities of theirs we admired. By this we honor them, and they live within us, in our story.

And we eat. As a caterer I can attest that people eat more at funerals and weddings. I think emotions burn calories and at both we have a high output of emotions. Food gives us comfort: A belly full of hearty food feels warm, like a fuzzy blanket or a pair of arms wrapped around you on a cold day. Food celebrates life: At weddings and funerals, we bring out the special dishes, the family dishes, or just our favorites. Almost every person talked about Mrs. O's cooking. Her tacos, in particular. She was a great cook because she loved it. She loved making food that brought people together.

Today was full of life - one past, one present, and two future. If you noticed how long my day was, I'd have to say it was a little too full. Tomorrow I'll let life sink in more slowly. We'll make coffee, maybe some pancakes, and catch up with Grandma B. I'll call my friend and see how she's doing. I'm guessing the day after the funeral is a hard one. Tomorrow I'll honor Mrs. O. by being with family and by cooking up something good.


  1. Julie - You made our day so great and now to find out how long and difficult a day it was for you - is very moving. Thank you so much for being there for us when you had so much on your mind. Our guests were so impressed with the food - - and you're right it is amazing comfort food that makes weddings, and funerals, an appropriate way to mark the milestones in our lives. As mother-of-the-bride - we thank you, and your crew, for making it so special.

  2. Thank you, Cheryl! You and your husband made such a wonderful setting for the new couple. They were so happy. It was a great ending to a long and emotional day for me. Best wishes to them and to you!