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.

 

 

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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Tips on Peeling Back the Layers

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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