Sunday, October 9, 2011
When we arrived, they were all there, awaiting patiently for their guests who didn't known them from atom. One had wispy white hair and wore a slightly stained eggshell-colored apron. She had thin wired-rimmed glasses that moved up and down when she greeted us. The others were busy removing foil from disposable baking tins and bringing out pitchers of lemonade and iced tea.
"Welcome," the wispy-haired woman said. "Is everyone else on their way? We'd love for you to all be together."
While we were the first ones to arrive, we were met with many sweet and savory smells that reminded me of visiting my Nana at her home in Arkansas when I was young. At the back of the sanctuary, three dining room sized tables were covered with casserole dishes filled with everyone's favorite comfort foods: brown sugar baked beans, corn spoon bread and crispy fried chicken. The last table was checkered with individual plates topped with slices of cherry pie, chocolate cake and frozen fruit salad.
The older women silently left us to gaze over the feast they had probably spent hours perparing. Maybe these dishes were part of their families' traditional Sunday dinners. Maybe they were the foods their sons always asked for when they had tummy aches. Whether or not these dishes were designated "healing foods," I knew that they would provide the magic that we were in need of, bringing a group of people together who had just lost someone who would have been the first guy in line, grabbing an extra plate of dessert.
On Saturday, myself, along with 30 others, gathered to honor the life of Tom Taubensee - my outdoorsy, four-wheeler driving, basketball loving Hoosier pal who left us far too soon.
After his memorial service, a group of wonderfully kind women from Sherwood Oaks Church - who didn't have any connection to the Taubensee family - prepared us an amazing lunch. Instead of us scatting in different directions and leaving with sadness in our hearts, they provided us with a way to connect after his service. Because of their kindness, we were able to celebrate his life with a little feast that I know he would have loved.
These women certainly didn't have any obligation to create this luncheon gathering. They could have been making these foods for their own families ... but they made it especially for us, and I don't think Saturday would have been nearly as special had they not blessed us with their soul food fixings.
I've learned that you should never underestimate the power of a homemade meal. After tasting these ladies' home cooking, I know that they didn't and doubt they ever will.