Caring for Others - Bereavement Meals | Kitchen Explorers | PBS Food

Caring for Others – Bereavement Meals

You can never underestimate the comforting power of preparing a meal for a family who is dealing with crisis or grieving the loss of a loved one.

A couple weeks ago my father passed away unexpectedly.  The days and weeks which have followed have been filled with long days and nights working on my father’s estate and caring for my mother, who is adjusting to life without my father after 45 years of marriage.

My love affair with food has dwindled to the way side as I have settled for the take-out and fast-food variety type meals usually found in the drive-thru lane and consumed minutes later during the drive to my next appointment.  Is it ideal?  No, but I’m not living in ideal circumstances at the moment.

A fellow food writing friend, Rebekah, emailed me last week and asked if she could bring a meal.  Being emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted I replied to her days later to accept her offer.  I wrote:  “Yes, we would love a home cooked meal.”  When she arrived we sat down in my living room and I shared with her some of the details of what I had been going through the last couple weeks.  I confessed that I had lost count of how many times we ate fast-food hamburgers and French-fries the last couple weeks and that I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating more of it.  She listened with compassion and without judgment.

After she left, I opened up the cooler she brought and read the note attached.  “Made with loving hands,” the note said.  I was home alone and heated up one bowl of Rebekah’s beef stew in the microwave.  I wasn’t even hungry when I did this, but I knew I needed to eat.   The taste of the first spoonful in my mouth instantly comforted me.  I’ve been so busy trying to take care of my own family and my mother that I hadn’t even realized how much I also needed to be comforted. At that very moment my appetite began to return and I started eating more.  It wasn’t hard to do because the stew was so good, flavorful, and hearty.

Also in the container were grayish-brown short bread cookies.  I could tell by looking at them they were rolled, refrigerated, sliced, and each baked with a sprinkling of turbinado sugar.  I have an appreciation for these types of details.  The shape of the cookies weren’t perfectly round – but they were perfectly homemade; evidence of loving hands taking the time to care for me.   The cookies made me think of the note my friend sent, which ministered to my grieving and tired soul.  I envisioned in my mind the time and heart that went into preparing that meal.  Words cannot express how deeply touched I was.  Later that evening my mother and the rest of the family also enjoyed Rebekah’s stew and cookies.  Without saying anything to my mom, she commented on how good the stew was.  The stew was powerfully special in so many ways.  Mom ate two bowls.

In years past I have prepared similar types of meals for other families experiencing similar ordeals.  However, being on the receiving end is more foreign to me.  What I’ve learned is this: it doesn’t take culinary know-how to bless others through food.  It just takes the willingness to do it.  When families are dealing with crisis, cooking is the last thing on their minds.  Having someone else bring a meal helps alleviate the burden.  Knowing and experiencing the love of others is the best medicine there is for broken hearts.  Never underestimate the power of a home cooked meal made with loving hands during times of crisis.

Here’s one of my favorite casserole recipes I often bring for dinner for families during times of hardship.

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