Good Grief Geese

As a bird watcher and lover of nature in general I could not help but think of the natural instincts of geese as I sat through 3 beautiful weddings this month. Early in my own marriage my husband had given me a lovely gold pin created by a Maine jeweler titled “Geese Mate for Life”. Did you know that geese mate for life? It is just one of the reasons why I love this bird. Not to mention that young William would walk around the house imitating their call “ga-LEEK ga-LEEK” in a high-pitched voice. 

When it comes to grief humans should be more like geese. Their devotion to not only their partner, but their entire flock is incredibly inspiring. They illustrate perfectly the notion of “many hands make light work”. Grief work is the hardest you will ever do. If there is ever a time for a need of loving and supportive companionship it’s when someone we love dies.

Geese have a few other instincts that we can all learn from. Look up. It’s this time of year with winter in their cry that geese are flying in “V” formation. Their journey is a long one. They do it together for a reason. The flapping of their individual wings allows the bird behind them to have a bit of an uplift making the flight less of a burden. The difficult journey is made more bearable. No one need or should travel a grief journey alone. Accept support. 

Once in awhile a goose falls out of formation. (Oh, those angry years.) It immediately will feel the drag and difficulty of flying alone. What does the flock do? A pair will drop from the “V” and follow the wayward goose to support and protect it until it is able to continue on its own. It’s a through thick and thin kind of friendship. It’s the bond of love and compassion at its best. Just hold your friends up when they can’t hold themselves.  

Now one thing is for sure. A griever can be super high maintenance. The journey is long. No one person can care for and protect you. When the goose at the point, the one leading the journey, gets tired he/she falls back and let’s another take over. He/she is exhausted and needs comfort. It is wise to understand that no one person can bear the burden of your grief. Take a cue from the geese and expand your flock.

There are times in life when we must rely on each other. Times when we need to be connected and encouraged. We need to honk like the geese to show our mutual support and love otherwise we end up traveling alone. Make room for your partner in life and a few trusted family and friends. 

To everyone: Be the Goose

As a side note, one of William’s favorite movies was “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise as the character Maverick. His wing man was aptly named “Goose”. 

With the holidays on the horizon you might be expecting a recipe for goose, but that ain’t happening here. I love geese, but not on my dinner plate. So, I looked back in my arsenal of recipes and thought I’d share one from a family cookbook that my cousins and I put together many years ago. My extended family are totally a flock of geese. They have been there for me on so many occasions, but it was aunt Faye who rescued me in times of trouble during elementary school. Back then we walked to school and mid-day took a break for lunch. Aunt Faye lived only a few doors from the school and rather than me walking the long route home in the rain and snow she’d invite me in for a warm bowl of her pastina. How lucky was I to have the love and support of Aunt Faye. Here is her recipe as written in our family cookbook. 

Aunt Faye’s Famous Pastina

1 pound pastina

2 eggs

Butter

Parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

Boil pastina till tender. Drain and add 2 eggs, butter and parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste.

Okay…for all you cooks who like clear-cut quantities just go with your instincts. Be Italian for 5 minutes and add a spoonful of this or a pinch of that. Be the Goose! 

Good Grief A Beach House

It’s been 3,079 days since I lost my son and two years to the day, I bought a beach house because of a rock. Yes, you read it. A rock, but not just any rock. Seriously, grief makes one do crazy, impulsive things that you never thought you would or could. It’s true. 

If you follow the blog, I suspect you already know the effect the rock had on me, but for the others, let me explain. I believe my son died before he was ready to go and with that keeps a presence here. There wasn’t a day that went by that he did not end a conversation with an “I love you” and thus he continues to show himself to me with an occasional heart sign. I call these moments “whoosh” and along with seeing a heart I feel a squeeze in my chest as if he is hugging me.

So, it was two years ago while on a vacation I happened upon a house just a few doors down from our rental that was for sale. Just for fun, my husband and I took a walk through the house never intending to buy it, but as we were leaving the property there was this rock nestled in the crushed shells of the driveway. I gravitated to it and my husband immediately said, “he wants us to buy this house.” The rest is history.

The beach house has been a large part of the grief journey not only for me, but for my husband. The property is a stunning, peaceful wildlife refuge on one side with gentle ocean waves on the other. Surrounded by nature it’s a birder’s paradise with nesting osprey, herons and eagles plus all the sea creatures one can imagine.

There is also an 8-point buck that hangs out. He is here.

Swayed by emotion? Trust your instincts. Find your refuge.

Poppy Seed Cookies Transformation

Not long ago my friend, Steven, told me he was impressed by how I chose to transform my pain rather than transmit it. Not being the deep thinker that he is I have been reflecting on his comment ever since. The blog has certainly been a sacred space to share pain. A room built on grief, but filled with joy, peace and quiet. We are never not broken, but true strength and courage is never about wholeness. It is the ability to face the darkness, adapt and shine a positive light that honors the dear departed. How else could one celebrate a son so loved? 

Baking is a lot like grief. A process with good days and bad. A transformation through fire. A healthy annihilation of ingredients that are broken down and come back stronger. Love made edible…and that has made all the difference.

Today’s recipe celebrates a lovely mom named Linda. Her daughter, Lauren, took the time to privately correspond with me soon after finding the blog last month. Lauren’s letter certainly helps me understand what Steven was trying to tell me. Here is what she wrote: 

Dear Lisa, 

I came across your blog as I have also turned to cooking/baking as a therapeutic way to deal with grief. I lost my mother in January unexpectedly and tragically. My son (her only grandchild) was 8 months old at the time. It has been heartbreaking. I wept when reading that you lost your son (any mother’s greatest fear) but I am so inspired by your journey through grief and finding a healing path that involves celebrating his life through baking! 

I wanted to reach out and say thank you so much for sharing such a raw and vulnerable part of you. I know you have touched many lives through your work. 

Warmly,

Lauren
 

I wanted to know more about Lauren’s mom. In the words of her sweet daughter:

My mom shared joy and love through food, both cooking and baking. I will cherish memories of time spent in the kitchen together cooking up a feast for family and friends. I saved many of her cookbooks and kitchen items to remind me of her and to feel her presence with me when I cook/bake. 

Linda and her grandson

Yes, to feel her presence. Thank you, Lauren, for celebrating your mom on Good Grief Cook. It’s an honor to share one of her favorite recipes. Here is the precious recipe in Linda’s hand-writing. (If you follow the blog you know how much I treasure anything hand-written).

The cookie batter is very thin. I was worried, but the transformation works. These are perfectly crisp, slightly sweet and with lovely layers of flavor. Baking them to the darker golden brown is the way to a crispy cookie. Bake slightly less if you prefer to mold or transform them hot off the baking sheet. I used a level teaspoon for the small crisps and a level tablespoon for the dessert platter size.

Poppy Seed Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup poppy seeds

Heat oven 325F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, oil, water, vanilla, almond extract, lemon rind and poppy seeds; blend well. Drop by level teaspoons (small cookies) or level tablespoons (large cookies) on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2-inches apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a darker golden brown for crisp cookies. While cookies are warm, using a thin spatula, transfer them to a cooling rack. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.