Gold Star Moms and a Cookbook

Let’s talk about the real Gold Star community and not the current political nonsense. Just for the record when my son died in 2011 I wrote to the then President and the first lady. In my naivete, I thought the President might have some answers and the first lady, a mom like me, would offer some comforting words, but I got nothing. No personal response from those in the White House made me feel like my son’s life didn’t matter. So my advice, don’t listen to what either side is saying right now about Gold Star families. It’s all painful media hype.

Then there is Heather Kuhn. Heather was the Navy Gold Star Program Coordinator assigned to my area of the country. Coordinators assist families with benefit questions connecting them to valuable resources concerning bereavement and financial planning support. They also provide opportunities to celebrate our fallen service member through events connecting the Gold Star community. When Heather reached out about creating this cookbook I was all in.

It really wasn’t a tough choice picking a recipe that William liked best. I did think about his favorite Boston cream pie and even a couple of recipes that he created himself…”waffles supreme” and a sandwich he called “the American Hero”, but clearly this chicken dish was the one he asked for more than any other. He loved a little bit of chicken fried.

Heather writes

I believe we all can relate that when faced with loss and grief and mourning – which is not a phase or a stage, but rather a journey – many fond memories are often brought back with familiar sounds and comforting smells, and the tastes of the meals shared with those we have loved and lost, but cherish still.

I am grateful she was inspired to reach out to Gold Star families and compile a book filled with recipe favorites and memories of our fallen service members. This book is not for sale, but available for free electronically for those wishing to read and honor our fallen heroes.

never forget ❤

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! 

Power of Prayer

Today I want to tell you about a letter I received from my sister in-law Maureen. Maureen has always kept the family close through her letters. She along with my brother in-law raised four strong, generous and successful children and it was through her letters I got to know them well as distance and work did not allow for frequent visits. Her letters continue to be filled with powerful messages about her love of family and strong faith in God.

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She writes, “I am a big believer of angels. I seek help from them on a regular basis.” She goes on to say that on July 8thwhen the Thailand boys were trapped in the cave and needed a special rescue team that she called upon my William. Out of all her list of angels he was the only one qualified to help in this situation. He had the military skills, the strength, ability to swim and the compassion to help those in need. “I had never asked anything of Will before. I started crying. I then felt this huge warm physical embrace.” Later that day, the first two boys were rescued.”

Maybe it’s a coincidence? Maybe it is just nonsense? But maybe, just maybe, his presence is here just in a different form? Praying to angels is a hopeful practice. As Maureen writes, “I sense them and get strength from them.” Maureen made one more comment about my son that really made my day. In fact, it was something that had never occurred to me. She said, “You made him available.” I’m so very grateful that he is felt in so many places and that his spirit is strong, loving and active.

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The Keys clan Thanksgiving 1981

Have you written a letter today? Are you thankful and filled with love and gratitude? May those you love most this holiday season surround you, but if not get out your pen and paper and tell them how you feel. It’s the best gift ever. I love you, Maureen.