Yesterday, I received devastating news that an old friend had passed away in a car accident during the early morning hours when most of us were safely snoozing. It took the evening and a troubled night of sleep to realize that he really was gone, and a new day found me at a tear-filled loss for words. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the ghost of his joyous, ever-laughing face and re-lived the memory of a long conversation he and I once had as we rocked back and forth on his front porch swing. He was as generous and warm as any person I have ever known.
This morning was thick with emotional Facebook comments from friends and family members of his who tried desperately to grasp the reality of their loss. Though it was difficult, I got dressed and went to work, but as I shopped, sliced, sautéed, and scrubbed dishes, I found myself distracted, lethargic, and desperately in need of an uplifting experience.
So, what do we lovely ladies do when life gets tough to handle? That’s right – seek out copious amounts of carbs and chocolate. My first thought was of the lemon bars at Trader Joe’s, so I made my way slowly up Shelbyville Road. Once inside the store, I took a distinct comfort in suddenly being surrounded by food, my one truly great passion, and as I perused their selection, I decided that I would share my favorite TJ’s treats with you in honor of my departed friend.
+ Frozen Lemon Bars – 12 tiny, powdered sugar-dusted punches of smooth, buttery lemon flavor. They are stunningly delicious.
+ Mini Mint Ice Cream Mouthfuls – 12 small mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich cookies. Cool, refreshing, and delightful.
+ English Toffee – Solid enough to crunch appropriately, but soft enough to not crack your teeth or stick them together. Buttery, rich toffee is dipped in milk chocolate and then rolled in a thick layer of chopped almonds. The package made it to my car unscathed, but I have no comment about what happened to it once I was inside the vehicle…
+ Triple Cream Brie with Wild Mushrooms – A huh. Creamy, luscious brie laced with chanterelle and porcini mushrooms. Eaten at room temperature, spread onto crusty French bread, it is divine beyond description.
Are these items erasing the dull, throbbing pain of loss? No, but every bite is reminding me to appreciate the reasons why I enjoy being alive.
Death forces us all to stand back and examine that which we prioritize, often shedding light on a need to restructure what we value or how we cope with pain. Instead of continuing to mourn the loss of a great man, I am celebrating the joy he brought to my life by savoring every last morsel of these comforting delights, knowing that his happy spirit is right here beside me.
When we lose those we love, we need only look to our individual joys and comforts in order to find them with us again. After all, they loved us, too, and the best way to honor their memories is to find personal happiness here on earth. Food makes me happy. It gives me purpose, and the thought that I can bring some love to you with my work as a tribute to a dear friend is the one thing that is managing to revive my broken heart tonight. I truly hope that you’ll try my favorite things at Trader Joe’s and find as much comfort in them as I do, whatever solace you may require.
In my dreams mere hours ago, my sweet friend turned to me and said, “I’m not really gone. You just have to find me.” Sitting here, thinking of his smile as I slowly enjoy my treats, I feel as if I have done just that.
~ Rest in peace, sweet and beloved Mark Holzknecht (1988-2012). Eventually, your passing will leave my mind, but your warm soul can never be far from my heart. ~
(MD – 8/15/12)