A Bittersweet Death

IMG_3706I  was in the car, heading home from a backpacking trip near Mt. Rainier. I was sweaty and caked in a layer of dirt but feeling enlivened after a time away with mountains, lakes, gooey s’mores, and friends.  I turned my phone on and checked my voicemail. My heart dropped into my stomach and my eyes became wet with tears as I listened to  my dad bring news that a close family friend had died suddenly  the previous morning. I remember meeting Mr. Ken the week my mother lay dying in a hospital bed. His kind eyes made my eight-year-old self feel a little less frightened. Throughout the years, he and his wife walked our family through some of the darkest hours, always offering words of encouragement and support. And they were present  to celebrate the beginning of marriages and brand new babies.

Grief can often be bittersweet. The sadness sneaks up on you when you realize you’ll miss seeing them at the next big event or know they are just a phone call away. It’s small little things  you take for granted. But the sweetness comes  when you can celebrate a life well lived. This man wrung every second out of the day. He poured his life out to others. His laughter and jovial spirit were infectious.

Death has a way of bringing my feet back to the ground. It opens my eyes to see the things I often obsess over aren’t worth my energy. As I mull through memories of days nearly forgotten I am quickly brought to the near present.  I rethink where my time and priorities have been the past few months. It pushes me to make adjustments so that when I finally say ‘goodbye’ to this life, I will be remembered for loving others without abandon and living a life full of courage.

Instead of uselessly chasing after my own happiness, I want to pour my life out for others. I have a feeling that deep joy and satisfaction come when I’m not sitting around looking at my petty places of imperfection but looking to love others better. To spend less time worried that I don’t measure up and more time getting out there and jumping in. Growing up often means spending less time worried that I may fail or not measure up. It’s taking that first big step of courage and continuing to follow down the path, step by step.  It’s letting go of those insignificant things and embracing with open arms those things that last; those things that matter long after we take our last breath.

Thank you, Mr. Ken for always greeting me with a smile, making excellent fresh squeezed orange juice and reminding me that loving others well is the very best legacy you can leave.

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The grey sky of Seattle has mirrored my heart the past few days . But the sunshine always manages to peek in as I think how incredibly fortunate we are to live here, in this very place, in this very moment. I took time a few nights ago to remake one my husband’s favorite meals. We took the evening off from working, shut our computers, and sat closely on the couch savoring the last of summer’s flavors. These moments are what matter. Slowly they add up, one by one, creating a live brimming with happiness.

Greek Panzanella

This is a flexible recipe. Add more or less of the ingredients to suit your tastes. I always add the bread to the salad just before serving. I like it to retain its crunch and not soak up too much of the dressing.

6 cups sourdough bread, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1/2 English cucumber

8 ounces of feta chesse

1/2 medium red onion

8 ounces kalamata olives

salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:

1 clove garlic, minced finely

3 tablespoons dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon of mint, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons basil, roughly chopped

Heat a skillet  over medium heat. Place cubed bread in skillet and toss with the two tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the bread until golden and crisp. Remove from heat and set aside. Half tomatoes and chop the cucumber in bite-sized pieces. Cube the feta. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, feta and olives into a large bowl.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the tomato mixture. If time permits, allow the flavors to mix for 30-45 minutes. Toss in the bread immediately before serving.

I love serving this with Sara Forte’s Greek Chicken from Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook. 

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4 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Death

  1. Lovely, have you ever considered writing for a magazine? Your blog reminds me of reading Sunset Magazine or Better Homes and Gardens!

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