My father died on a Wednesday. On Thursday morning, my aunt was already in the kitchen cooking.
Pound cakes, fried chicken, smothered dove, enough gravy to be a felony.
My aunt also covered our mirrors with blankets. I asked why she did such a thing.
She said, “Same reason I’m cooking, it’s what we do.”
Well, nobody tells you death and food go hand in hand. When someone dies, an explosion of casseroles follow. Our front porch nearly buckled from the weight of the covered dishes.
We received food of all kinds. The man down the road delivered bullfrog legs. One lady brought tomatoes in jars. Someone even brought a garbage bag of green peanuts.
I wish I could tell you how it all tasted. But I can’t. After daddy’s funeral, everything was bland.
Anyway, my wife cooks for funerals, too. I’ve seen her whip up enough to fill two city blocks.
A few years ago, a man died. She broke her back making more food than I’ve ever seen. She slaved for days in the kitchen—popping Advil. When all was finished, our galley looked like a grease pit.
That night, we loaded coolers into my truck. She sat in the passenger seat, balancing casseroles on her lap. When we made the drop, a boy met us at the door, which took me off guard. I didn’t know the man had kids.
The boy eyed the dishes.
I forced a smile past the lump in my throat.
His hair was redder than mine.
Later, he and I sat on the porch. He didn’t have much to say. When he eventually did speak, he said, “Why’d you bring so much food?”
I couldn’t answer.
The truth is, I’m not sure why. God knows, he wasn’t going to enjoy it no matter how much he ate. And that’s a shame—my wife makes exceptional biscuits.
But, I’ve thought about it a lot since that day. And If I’d been in my right mind, I might’ve told him:
Son, one day years from now, that ache in your chest will still be there. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that. But you’ll get used to it.
And when you see someone else suffer, it will only get worse. But this isn’t a bad hurt. Because it’ll make you remember.
Immediately, you’ll get reminded of all this food. Maybe you’ll have warm memories of your aunt—and how superstitious she was. Remember how alone you felt.
Maybe you’ll remember all the covered dishes, and how some folks didn’t know what to say, so they kept quiet. Some sat with you, watching the night sky. Several prayed for you. Some still do.
Then you’ll realize something and it will all become clear to you.
It wasn’t food those people gave.
It was love.