Crossing a Bridge: The Final Step

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It’s been 2640 days since I lost my son.  Over 7 years has gone by in a blink of an eye, but in the last month there has been some kind of change. It’s hard to explain because I don’t exactly understand it myself. I liken it to crossing over some sort of bridge. How does one get to such a crossroad? It certainly isn’t easy and could not have been done without this blog or you celebrating him. And my goodness how you celebrated him…at your weddings, with the birth of your children, at country music concerts, on the lacrosse field, at the beach, at Will’s Bench and in the mountains….from sea to shining sea you all celebrated him. Thank you for all the messages and photos all these years.

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So, getting here. It feels like a hopeful place. It’s a destination where William is warm and alive and connected to not just my heart, but yours, too. I see it in my dreams. So many hearts . He is safely tucked in. This path over the bridge is one of remembrance of his love, his adventures and loyal spirit. With every step his love of family, friends and country is well preserved. I can see it all now. It’s all right here. The journey certainly doesn’t end, but it does become more quiet and private.

 

 

There is a bridge ahead; it’s been beckoning me to cross over. Filled with multiple conflicts it has been difficult to decide which way to go. The bridge appears sturdy and stable, but you know how those old bridges can be. Looks can be deceiving. It’s made of sticks like that Little Pig’s house and we all know how that one ended. Is it safe to say one will make it over? Maybe the best thing is to just stay put, but his favorite poem says, “take that road” and the promise to follow in his light weighs heavy.

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Some bridges are harder to cross than others especially if you are grieving.  The heights are frightening, the stability is often shaky and with no horizon in sight it’s a panic attack in the making.  Bridges can be deceiving, so take your time (however long). Then one day, much to your surprise, there will be a bridge that beckons with hope and peace on the other side. Not like one of those rope type bridges that wobble when one walks over it, but more like a guarded covered bridge. A stable bridge that feels safe. Take the first step and cross over. There’s someone on your shoulder going, too. Remember you are never alone.

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So this is it. The end of the very public grief of GoodGriefCook. The blog is not going away. The journey will always be here with the recipes inspired by the places I have been and the people I love. This celebration of life, love and the healing power of food will always be best read from the beginning, but this is the end as we know it. I think I will name this bridge “gratitude”. I love you William and am ever proud to be your mom.

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To all those thick in their grief just continue one step at a time. Celebrate your person and you, too, will find peace.

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Birthday Boy’s Spirited Boston Cream Pie

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Happy heavenly birthday William

 #30

It’s Your Day

loved being home

Your life was cut short too soon, but you lived fuller than most.  You cultivated a beautiful diverse garden filled with people far and wide who still love and remember you. They reach out every day, but especially at this time to surround me with the kind of love and appreciation you showed them. Happy birthday my boy. You are loved and missed by so many.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I love this web site for its detailed recipe instructions, weight measurements and videos. Besides angel food cake with strawberries another of William’s favorite desserts was Boston Cream Pie. I fancied this one up with a white chocolate swirl and gave it a touch of Will Keys spirit in the chocolate glaze.

The recipe is designed to make 12 cupcakes, but I chose to make a 6-inch round cake plus 6 cupcakes from the batter. I think William would have eaten the whole cake himself.

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Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature

Pastry Cream:

2 large (35 grams) egg yolks

3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons (20 grams) firmly packed cornstarch (corn flour)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) whole (full fat) milk

1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or liquid glucose or golden syrup)

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels

White Chocolate Swirl:

2 squares white chocolate

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly butter 12 muffin cups, or spray with a non stick baking vegetable spray. (I did 6 cupcakes and a 6-inch round cake)

In bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then, with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a level ice-cream scoopful, fill 6 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake just comes out clean. Spoon remaining batter into the 6-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk the  egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch (corn flour) and salt and mix until you have a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (the milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling (pour through strainer if necessary). Pour the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking the mixture for another 30 – 60 seconds or until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. The pastry cream can be stored for up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed. (I pressed my through a sieve to get it extra smooth and creamy.)

Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in the Jack Daniels, and let cool until it thickens slightly (to pouring consistency).

2 white chocolate squares, melted

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Assemble: Place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Fill each cupcake with the pastry cream by inserting the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeezing just until you start to see cracks in the top of the cupcake. Then pour about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate glaze onto the center of each cupcake, letting it drip down the sides. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate and swirl with the end of a toothpick. Let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or until the chocolate glaze dries. The cupcakes can then be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (I zapped a cold cupcake for 15 seconds in the microwave and it was heavenly)

For the cake: slice it in half horizontally and place bottom half on serving plate. Top with remaining pastry cream. Place second cake layer on top. Spoon remaining glaze and white chocolate over the top; swirl it.

Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6-inch cake and 6 cupcakes

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William

Tips on Peeling Back the Layers

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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. ❤

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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