Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 22, 2009

Grandma's Kitchen: Savor every moment


Editor's note: This column was written by Cathy Shaffer, the second of Edna's four daughters, all of whom are taking turns caring for Edna as she recuperates from surgery. Cathy is a registered nurse from New York. Edna expects to be writing her column again in April.

How do we measure the sum of our days? We spend hours not noticing the miles between, the spaces grown, the aging face. Society demands busy-ness of us all, and stress so often pulls us from our own priorities and realities. And then, a phone call, a conversation, a knock at the door, a doctor report can stop it all on a dime. And we are faced with the possibility of no more time.

We wonder, what did I do with everything in between?

As I wandered the halls of University of Michigan Hospital on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, our mother fluttered into a drug-induced sleep to undergo the most dramatic surgery of her life. She knew all the risks, the potential complications, the options. She also knew there was no choice but to try and remove the tumor and newly discovered cancer detected in her bladder.

Irony of lifestyle confounded her daughters, as we thought about her life. Mom has never smoked, and has been a proactive person in her own decisions about healthy choices and positive thinking.

She, her four daughters and her circle of support ventured through days of uncertainty. We sat, looking into the bottom of our coffee cups, smoothing out our skirts and shifting in our chairs, as we waited for the pathology report.

We now have hope that we have more time and a future together.

Mom, in her typical indomitable spirit, continued through her unknown days with humor and kindness. Nurses perched in her room, like migrating birds finding spring. Doctors, physical therapists and housekeeping staff alike were cheered by her stoicism.

From singing "Good Night, Ladies" (both verses) into her pain control pump button, to shooing her daughters out of her room to go get their own sleep, to reciting poetry of inspiration word for word to those who came to help her, she continued and continues on this remarkable journey as a remarkable spirited woman.

We hope for the gift of time once again with our mother, gray-haired sisters that we are, our children, our grandchildren, our partners. We have been reminded once again that birth to death is like a crinkle on a map, connecting two seemingly faraway places together quickly. We have been shown that life is a tenuous thread.

If we can keep hope in our hearts whatever happens, even though we have no control over circumstances in this life, then we can remain beautiful spirits and compassionate in our doings.

And if we are lucky, we may be given the gift of time, for just a time longer. None of us really knows, do we? But we do have this moment. We have this time. For now.

This is a soup made for my mother as she has needed it.

Healing Soup

1 chicken

2 c. brown rice

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. sesame oil

1/4 c. soy sauce

1/2 head garlic, diced

1 c. celery, diced

1/2 c. carrots, diced

Pour water to cover chicken in large pan. Add above ingredients.

As you wash the vegetables and dice, think of your loved one, the softness of their skin, their smile, their spirit.

Stir in prayers your own way.

Add thoughts of healing as you prepare this gift.

Cool chicken and cut off the meat. Combine the meat back into the beautiful broth. Add salt and pepper to taste, heat. Serve with a heart full of light.

P.S. My mom wanted me to thank you for all of your support, love and encouragement. She also said she will be speaking for herself next month.

Parting shot:

There is always one more thing about a person you don't know. Be gentle.

Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, Mi 49685; or by sending e-mail to: