Tips on Peeling Back the Layers


onion flowers

It was mid-March 2011 when I last spent time with William. Who knew it would be my last real conversation and final hug good-bye? And so it begins this time of year when I feel like I can’t catch my breath. It’s an uncontrollable anxiety that just won’t go away. Sleep escapes me often waking in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes. “Just breathe” is my mantra. This, too, shall pass, but when? It’s been 7 years. How many more layers are there to this grief thing?


Truth is that I am just a little frustrated with myself. Why does working through grief take so long to resolve? I know the answer. There is no end to it, but I want there to be. It’s difficult wanting something one knows can never be achieved. Acceptance will come. Just breathe.


I want to reach in and hold your hand


Need a food analogy? Recently, I saw a lovely oil painting of an onion. Quite detailed in shades of black and brown I wanted to reach in and peel away some of its dried, fragile outer skin. In its darkness, I knew peeling back the layers would bring tears, but also that aromatic freshness that makes cooking with onions so delicious, so delightful and well, healing. It’s the same with every onion. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do YOU do it?


A small tabletop fan blows the sulfuric onion fumes away from you…no more tears

There are lots of tips on how to slice an onion without crying. Chilling it and not cutting through the root don’t work for me. Wearing glasses offer zero protection from the noxious fumes, but blowing the fumes away from my cutting board with a small tabletop fan works like a charm. Try it. No more tears. You are welcome.


Now, if onion is to be eaten raw in a recipe like a salsa I suggest soaking chopped onion in cold water to rinse away some of the pungent juice for a milder flavor.


Grief is like the biggest most pungent onion in the garden. Peeling back each layer brings on tears. It’s painful, but healing. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do you get through your day?


My son was killed on April 16th. His birthday is April 22. It’s a rough week for a lot of people. I want to dedicate this blog post to my friends Carol & Bev. They  are how I feel God’s presence. They hold me up when I can’t hold myself. They struggle along with me, so they jump in the car and make the long trip. They bring food and wine and laughter. They let me be me and it is such a relief. May you all have a Carol & Bev in your life. ❤


And a special shout-out to Patrice, Debbie, Wendy and Irene. Friends who remember and continue to celebrate him through me.

If you care to leave a comment today make it a happy thought, a joke or a fun William story….or even your favorite cooking with onion tips.

thank you


46 thoughts on “Tips on Peeling Back the Layers

  1. Here is a memory for you Lisa…a long, long time ago we met at church to go over some plans for the auction. You stopped by with William and we went into the social hall where there were two tables set up with a quilt draped over the top. William was maybe 4-5? He was getting antsy with us and our extended conversation 😉
    He grabbed two wooden spoons from the kitchen, snuck under the table where he was hidden from view by our quilt. He proceeded to make it his combat zone complete with sound effects, wooden spoon rifles, and an imagination that only a 5 year old boy can muster. We never heard from him again until the battle was won and he was ready to go!
    Wishing you joy in your memories and peace in your heart. ❤

    • You also show me God’s presence, my lady. This story of William is so typical of him and sweet and precious. Thank you for sharing it with me today. Uplifting is what I need and you gave it to me good! ❤

  2. Be kind to yourself. How can you stop loving and missing such a beautiful, beautiful soul that you had in Will? Seven years is mere minutes in grief and Anniversaries are so difficult to begin with but look how close yours are together. Love and hugs to you. 💙

  3. Thinking of you with tears in my eyes and cracks in my heart. You are so strong to be able to write about Will. Your thoughts and words help to hold us up! One step at a time, Lisa. 💖💔

    • I know we see each other…where you are and where I have been and what you can expect. Grateful to be able to be there for each other dear friend ❤

  4. For Ann and I,it was watching William walking past our house on his way to go fishing.
    (My 83 year old brain is blocking his constant companion canine’s name)
    His picture and memorial service program,maintain a place of honor alongside the photos of our family loved ones ,in our living room.
    Ann’s ALZ prevents her from remembering,but I enjoy reminding her of our former neighbor’s.It never fails to bring a smile to her face.
    Thank you,Lisa.

    • So kind and loving dear neighbor. That boy loved fishing Lake Elise with his dog Colleen. Thank you and love to you and Ann ❤

    • small, battery operated…don’t chop without it. The brand is O2 Cool and I believe I got it at Walmart. I have been using it for 10 years now.

  5. I never knew William but I know his mom! Through your loving stories and healing journey of beautiful recipes I meet him in every word and breath you speak! What a blessing you are my friend! His Woosh moments are sweet whispers from above! ❤️

    • From day 1 you have shown me God’s presence in all you say and do. Your love and kindness are immeasurable. Hoping William “Whooshes” you on April 22nd

  6. Thank you for being transparent and for walking the journey through your blog and inviting others to walk along. Your words on this blog have brought understanding, comfort, and encouragement to many. I have given the link to my friends who did not have that chance to say that final good-bye either, and to those who have been by their child’s bedside. I know grief is not a destination but a journey for a lifetime.Thank you for helping others to see this too. I am so thankful you have friends who will walk with you for that lifetime. You are always in my heart.

    • Thank you dear friend for being here and for sharing. I am certain your shoulders are holding up a few.

  7. Thank you mama for those kind words…I’ll always be there for you. Now a funny William story (there are so many…) We all recall when he was in middle school and got his tongue stuck to the flag pole at the town hall. Well, right around that time period, he was over our house hanging out with Tyler when he decided it’d be a good idea to swallow the biggest goldfish we had in our fish tank. He just fished it out and swallowed it whole. My husband then dubbed him with the Indian name “Tongue-Pole-Swallow-Fish”. We still laugh about it to this day.
    Sending you big hugs especially this time of year. ❤

    • He was a double dog dare me kind of guy and earned every name (lol). ps I can’t thank you enough for the visit

  8. Beautiful sentiments. I never knew William but feel privileged to know him through you, your memories and your woosh moments ❤️.
    Now this will seem crazy but I have a friend who swears that if you cut an onion holding a match between your teeth (unlit) that it prevents you from tearing up.

    • WOW is Henry and Stephanie replacing the worn flags at the sight where he died. I love them for that. ❤

  9. Hi Lisa: You are helping yourself and others through grief by writing about it, and sharing your feelings, recipes and tips with us. One of the way I get through tough times is turning it all over to God. I can’t begin to understand things, and sometimes (often) that’s all I can do.

    • We don’t get to know why and that is what makes it all so difficult. I always try to make sense of a situation and of course the loss of any child makes no sense.

  10. Oh, Lisa. I never knew William, but I do love getting to know him through you. I will be praying for you over the coming weeks. May you feel the presence of the Lord reach out to you, hold you tight, and allow you to sink in deep. You, Lisa, are an inspiration, an encouragement, and a difference-maker to so many!

  11. I kind of like that title “difference-maker” 🙂 thank you Kim for your kind words and prayers

  12. Sunday is “my” cooking day. It’s when I feel closest to my family and most at peace. Ironically, “Imagine”, by John Lennon, just came on my cable music station as I write this. ……”And the world will live as one…..” When I cook…that’s how I feel. When I chop….or knead bread…..or think deeply what spice or herb I want to marry into this creation in front of me…..I am closest to safety and at peace and thinking about the ones now gone but still influencing me in the kitchen. Diana Krall just came on the station with, “I Can’t Tell You Why….. And after that….now….Teardrop Butterfly. I have learned to look or listen to the signs. If we don’t allow them in, we never know they are there. William’s presence, is in the moments when you need it most. April is an emotional month in the world of religion. William leaving this earth is a reminder of that but also a reminder that thru the tears and the permission of the onion to just cry….., that his undeniably senseless loss, will not be lost in the special moments you shared in so many places but especially the kitchen. The crazy thing about grieveing is that we are told, time heals all wounds, I say screw that. Time in the kitchen is precious and precise. Time in the kitchen is valuable and necessary and not to be wasted waiting for anything. Meals are ruined waiting for time! So I say dear friend, continue with this amazing recipe you are creating for all of us that know and love you…..continue to create what works for you. And thank you for including others in the journey. ❤ and a super big overcooked hug to you.

    • No doubt the kitchen is our happy place. You made me cry and you made me laugh “screw that”. So many years ago, as a young family, we visited N. Conway upon your recommendation and oh what wonderful skiing memories we made there. It was so cold, but I remember cross-country skiing with both Caitlin and William leading us through a trail and suddenly being hit by a balmy, warm breeze. It was odd to suddenly feel that kind of warmth, but fast forward today and that is exactly what comes over me when I feel William’s presence. Thank you for being here ❤

      • Our memories will create amazing dishes of love and adventure, as we go forth. I can not thank you enough for remembering your North Conway experience. Your family has touched my soul in so many ways, with permanence. And, you came into my life at such a difficult time yet brought such clarity to it. FYI, It is still a sitcom …Yet, in this….still….. Spring season …….. a warmth from the snow. ❤

  13. I feel blessed to have started our family in such a “Currier and Ives” quintessential small town, and especially because of you and your family and our Atwood Rd. neighbors.
    I smile when I remember Will knocking on the door looking for Jay to play. If Jay wasn’t home he would look sooo disappointed and would turn to leave. Suddenly, he would stop and turn around and ask if he could play with Leigh Ellen. Clearly not his first play time choice, but I do remember him declaring that he was going to marry her.
    Keeping you close in thought and and in my prayers. Consider yourself hugged.

    • Such a sweet story and I feel so lucky to have had those young years with you. I still marvel how you kept your kids so clean when mine were always covered in dirt ❤

    • What a thoughtless comment. You obviously have not been following Lisa’s blog. She celebrates him in everything she does.

      • Thank you for coming to my defense. Kind of sad that those kinds of comments are made, but I know the source and am able to put it aside.

  14. I have such admiration and awe of you, my dear. You are an inspiration … so kind and genuine, and someone who sets the bar to the highest level. You rise to an impressive height … in a situation that most of us can never imagine the depths of. You are really something special; thank you for being my friend, and for speaking from your heart. ❤️

    • Well you got today’s shout out for so many reasons. You take care of so many people far and wide and you never cease to impress with your kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity. Probably the most selfless person I know spreading love wherever you go and not expecting anything in return. A real angel on earth. ❤

    • Thanks for being here Rachel and for the compliment. I never feel my writing is up to teacher standards ❤

  15. Your post is so beautifully written. You are more of a bad ass in all aspects of your life than I ever knew.
    William is my hero. He never wasted a single day of his life. He ate a goldfish and ants.

    • Thanks my coumare! Glad you have joined in on my cooking fun and love of my William. I sure do miss his antics.

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