Last week I was able to celebrate, and cook for, my cousin’s joyous matrimony. The escalation of excitement and anticipation to an event like this is such a marvelous feeling. I was honored by being asked to help prep food. I loved planning how I was going to make the food, timing it with the other matrimonial activities, preparing the house, and looking forward to seeing everyone. Guests start arriving, and I get to start cooking. I enveloped myself in smoking brisket and ribs, baking cornbread, steaming asparagus, cooking chicken and baked beans, drinking wine, beer, and coffee, telling stories and sharing life. Enjoying the fellowship of family that I haven’t been around in years, and listening to the children play with cousins that they had just met. We all went to sleep knowing that more family was arriving in the morning, and the celebration would just continue crescendoing through the weekend. More and more family and friends, sushi, kufta, wine and beer, tostadas, pizza, dancing, singing, photos, etc.
Life doesn’t get much more of a sweeter aroma than this.
Two days later grandpa died.
Eight days later, I was able to receive the reciprocal blessing, as my family was embraced, and cooked for, by our church family during the memorial and burial of my grandfather. The same family that had just celebrated a wedding was now celebrating a life well lived with even more family and friends.
Continual fellowship with our community, surrounded by curries, salads, homemade pies, pizza, meats and cheeses, a potluck meal, chicken, and pasta. More food and fellowship than could be properly consumed in the allotted time.
I’m confident of which weekend was easier and more enjoyable, but I’m not confident of which was sweeter and more fulfilling of the soul.
I was able to take some time and wonder through my father’s freshly planned, prepped, and budding spring time garden and community garden, as well as sit among the trees in the Bartlett Arboretum (an arboretum that had been ignored, in disrepair, and lovingly renewed in the last 20 years). The calming effects of enjoying other people’s labor and natural beauty while enveloped by your thoughts, memories, and some live big band music was brilliant. I was able to realize that life and death are just as important as the other.
You cannot have life in any aspect of your life without a form of death. Dead plants provide nutrients for new plants. Your true self slowly emerges through the death of your false self and ego. Seeds need to die, and some burned, before they can sprout. Character, values, morals, and memories are passed by ancestors to new family members.
On the drive home we were able to enjoy my wife’s side of the family, making stone fired pizza’s, sitting on the porch and reminiscing as the kids ran around feeding horses, playing in the mud, and swinging.
I’m constantly reminded how good life is, but how much better it is to live it and experience it with others. For my little family, my extended family, and my community, I am eternally thankful. I’m grateful for being able to get your hand dirty in a garden, or in a kitchen, for being able to give and receive love in the form of time, food, and natural beauty.