Friday, February 20, 2015

Post 60: Show Up. Bring Food. And Leave.

Years ago, the day after my father died, I was comforting my mother. The funeral was the next day -- Jews move fast -- and Mom was at my home as we processed dad's death and the plans for the service. Around 11:30 a.m., it occurred to me that I had nothing to feed her. With all that had gone on immediately before and after dad's death, I hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping.

Just then, the doorbell rang, and Cyndi was there. Cyndi and I were connected through her husband Mike -- a client/friend. As I remember, she brought a quiche or two from a great restaurant and a loaf of bread. Maybe a salad. She hugged me, handed me the food and left.

I don't know that Cyndi remembers the incident at all. I'm guessing she makes those kind of condolence calls periodically. I remember it frequently. And I remember her as an angel, a literal godsend. Just when we needed it, she showed up. She brought sustenance for our bodies and our spirits. And she left.

The memory is on my mind now because my husband Tom had surgery recently and faces a long recuperation. While our lives have been somewhat upended, friends and family are making it much easier. Because, fortunately, we're surrounded by people who do what I all too often forget to do  ...

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

There's a reason why "show up" is first in that triad. It's the most important. Showing up, being present, defines a relationship. Happily, you define how you show up. Maybe, instead of stopping by with food, you bring over a good bottle of wine -- now that could really be helpful. Maybe you call or text. Not just once, but periodically. Maybe you send a handwritten card in the mail. Maybe you send two -- one for the patient and one for the caregiver.

Maybe you include the family in your prayers or send good thoughts their way. Just remember to let them know that.

My bestfriendinthewholeworldsincefourthgrade Lynn shows up every day with a phone call; she's miles away but always present. One of her calls -- while we were still at the hospital -- prompted a discussion with the charge nurse that totally changed our course of action, for the better.

Showing up makes a difference. It connects us. It creates the village we all need to raise ourselves out of the occasional mire that is life.

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

Ah, you know how I feel about this. Food is love. Go ahead, call me Jewish momma names all you want. I know it's not healthy, but there you have it. I express love by baking. And I feel loved when someone brings something to sustain me and my family -- whether it's Hedy's kugel or Costco's cookies. You don't have to bake. One of the big hits this go-round has been the yogurt Patty brought by -- along with the Costco goodies. (Full disclosure: We ate the cookies before we ate the yogurt.)

Show up. Bring food. And leave.

A rabbi once told me that Jews often worry about how their house looks when it's time to sit shiva. "Who would expect their house to be spotless when they've spent months caring for a dying loved one?" he asked.

No one should. And, trust me, no one who matters does. They're worried about whether you're eating and sleeping -- not whether you've vacuumed. Nonetheless, homemakers fret, and the last thing anyone needs during a crisis is a freakout over dust bunnies. So, unless you're there for a shiva service or a planned respite visit, your job is to be in and out so quickly there's no time to notice the piles on the dining room table. And, for god's sake, don't ask to use the bathroom.

Show up. Bring food. And leave. Your kindness will always be remembered.

P.S. Please consider this life advice, not a plea for casseroles -- despite how it sounds. The outpouring of support is part of what prompted this post. You can show up by posting a comment -- I'll happily share your good wishes with Tom.
P.P.S. I'm not going to even try to list all the people who are here for us on a regular basis. You know who you are. We love you.
P.P.P.S. Right after I wrote this post, our neighbor Pam showed up. With food. And left. The name of her heartwarming, tummy-loving dish? Friendship Soup. Life, my dears, is good.

Sidenote for those of you just joining the fun: Post 60 is a digression on the Creative Instigation blog, part of my 60th year celebration. This is post 6 of the 60. Party on!


CJ Kennedy said...

A speedy recovery to your DH. Make time for yourself. Be well.

Terry said...

Hoping Tom heals and regains his strength quickly. Hugs to both of you.

Jan said...

Thank you, Terry and CJ!