I don’t have a recipe for you today. I meant to update you on the sauerkraut project, but that will have to wait a few days.
I went to a funeral this morning. I actually go to a fair number of funerals, as a member of Saint Vincent de Paul. It’s an elderly bunch. And I’ve learned a lot from watching my older friends navigate these funerals with an enviable circumspection about the realities of life. They mourn their dead and enjoy seeing all their old friends on the same occasion. They dab away heartfelt tears, then laugh and tell stories through the funeral lunch.
The last time I saw Virginia was at another funeral, and she gave me a hug and a kiss, then held my hand in hers for a few minutes while asking me about my life.
Today I watched Harold, Virginia’s husband of 64 years, and their many children and grandchildren follow her casket up the aisle. The church was filled with family and friends, music and incense. A Catholic funeral is at once grand and simple, solemn and familiar. The well-known rhythm of the mass reminds me of the unceasing river of life itself with its seasons of birth, growth, and death.
As a member of Saint Vincent de Paul, Virginia worked tirelessly to feed the poor for decades. I took over coordinating the SVDP Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets from her six years ago, after she had done it forever. She mentored me through my first few years, answering questions, offering support and encouragement, and smoothing my way.
During the homily, the priest reminisced about Virginia bringing Irish Soda Bread to the rectory for all the priests every St. Patrick’s Day.
In his eulogy, her son-in-law talked about the importance of faith, family, and friends in Virginia’s life. He also shared memories of favorite recipes, birthday cakes, desserts, special dinners, her spaghetti, and especially her cookies. He spoke of the racks of cookies always cooling on her counters, and I remembered the times I when would visit Harold and Virginia, and she would smile and say, “Would you like a cookie?” If I hesitated at all, she would say, “Of course you do, dear!” and hold one out on her spatula with a smile. I felt about eight years old. But in a good way–cherished and fed.
The eulogy concluded with the observation that food was Virginia’s way of bringing together her faith, friends, and family.
And that, of course, is the secret wisdom of the very best cooks, who delight in feeding others, and whose generosity of spirit is made manifest in every dish their hands produce.