I inherited an older office chair for my desk, the one piece of furniture I had left to purchase for my home. I am on the Quiet Room committee, where six of us have decided how to transform someone’s old office into a space for grieving families, a meditation spot for staff and residents, and an official calm room for anyone to rest within the bustle of a day. When I first arrived at Kendal, I was astonished to discover that there wasn’t a non-denominational chapel of some kind. I heard there used to be a Quiet Room designated for this purpose, but when the new Memory wing was built, that space had gotten absorbed. Six years later, with the help of others who also felt this to be a glaring lack at Kendal, we now have another Quiet Room. I got the old office chair from there, just for being in the right place at the right time to inquire about its future destination.

The chair is not pretty, and is rather tall and imposing, but it is very comfortable, and adjusts every which way. The two reading chairs I brought with me here from Richard’s Manhattan office are sleek and comfy for those of us who can still rise in and out of cozy low chairs with lower arms. Many of my Kendal friends require the sturdy high arms of my new acquisition for better leverage. It will also nicely accommodate my tall and lanky son-in-law. He has not yet had the honor of sitting there but perhaps he will later this week when he and his mother, who is here for a two week visit, and my daughter, will come to take me home with them for an overnight. I am looking forward to having a broken English/Bosnian chat with his mom on becoming first time grandmothers together in December.

Here is a journal entry from last month. Grief arises at it does, when it does, on its own time.

Diary 7/20/19

Recipe for Grief Stew

serves one:

2 cups tear broth (comes salted, don’t add more salt)

1 small handful of disbelief

2-3 chunks of seasoned sorrow

Distilled years of shredded future dreams (to taste)

½ cup of sweet memories and acceptance

¼ cup of dried loneliness

½ teaspoon of astonishment

3 heaping Tablespoons of loving gratitude (optional, but highy recommended whenever available)

After bringing to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 1½ years. Store in fridge. Eat as necessary when the mood strikes.

Recommended for dessert: a sweet memory.

You are sitting outside on the deck, covered in sweat and the confetti of sawdust from working down in the woods at your portable sawmill. Morgan, the dog, is panting at your feet. Walking in the back kitchen door, you had filled a 12 oz. tumbler with water and brought out a plate with an apple and a chunk of our homemade manchego cheese for lunch. Overlooking the sheep in their paddock, source of the milk that made last year’s cheese, you take off your cap, showering the Adirondack chair with more wood chips.

Drinking down the water in one long chug, you gaze below at the ewes nursing large lambs and chewing their cud, and then up at the mountain across from ours. The cicadas are buzzing, so it must be August. Morgan waits patiently for the apple core that is sure to come, delicately taking it from your fingers at your “OK” command. The cheese is gone to the last crumb. Slapping your cap against your leg, you replace it purposefully on your head. Wiping your resinous hands on a paper towel, after brushing dirt away unsuccessfully from your overalls, you stand up and walk back down the hill to complete what you began. Morgan dutifully tags along behind having lapped up water from his bowl.

Not wanting to track more sawdust in the house, I come out to collect the plate and the glass you left behind, listening closely for the sawmill’s whine. I am relieved to hear the motor is still behaving for you after tinkering with it in the early morning. When it is nearly dark, after feeding the horses and sheep, you will trudge back up to the house and tell me of how many boards you cut from that particular dead oak, and that tall pine you culled last fall. You will list the 2×4’s and 8’s, and 10’s, if they were straight and free from knots, and tell me how you will use them to build the future barn. You hauled the milled wood by tractor to our east facing plateau where you stacked it to dry under the slanted roof you made for the growing pile of lumber.

The barn never got built, but the memory of you is sturdy and clear as day.

6 thoughts on “Grief Stew

  1. Oh Judi. This is so beautiful. I will print it out and put it on my wall for when I need am in need of a grief stew. Can I post it on Facebook. I keep meaning to call. It’s been so intense here lately. I’ll try tomorrow Love you

    Delight in All Things



  2. Well, I am one of the ‘intended to’s’ also. But I just could not find words. Just too many ‘missings’, of Richard and David and Ellen. And then there is the ‘comfort’ of my life going so well and not wanting this aspect of life to ‘intrude’ I think. You write so well that I cannot dodge it any more.
    My love, gratitude and connection in your grief and pain and lovely life you are creating..


    1. Jac, your lovely life also gladdens my heart, and as you share our grief, we also share your joy and comfort of a life well lived. And, I rejoice in that couple I supported to get married all those years ago!xoJ


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