Writing is a tricky business.
On one hand, it’s a way of letting it all out in a way that's meaningful and that lets you have all your feels.
On another hand, you want to think about your readers by sharing experiences that bring a sense of lightheartedness – an approach from which we could all absolutely benefit in a world that is, more often than not, far too serious for its own good.
On a third hand, sometimes you have to just stick with poignant memories and moments, both deep-rooted and fleeting. Sentiments and experiences so beautiful that they have to be shared, because they remind us of the importance of connecting to what matters most. You know, posts that sound like Anne Lamott: Spiritual with just enough rough-edged self-deprecation to ground words that gently carve your melted heart like a knife through warm brie.
This is kind of one those posts.
Time is among the most precious gifts, and perhaps the most painful loss.
I didn’t have much time with Kathy Van Bruinisse, or KVB as she is known in her family. But the gratitude I feel for having spent time with her? It's boundless.
She and Bill (BVB) welcomed me with open arms into their family as a future daughter-in-law (because no one in D’s family knew who I was when he proposed). That afternoon, we shared a few moments alone in her kitchen, where she told me that, like me, she enjoyed nutritious food. She made a delicious pie for dessert on a back-porched summer evening. She walked me upstairs to show me the carefully organized rows of old family photos. We stood in D's childhood room, where I learned of his out-of-this-world white-blonde afro hair as a youngster.
She gave me a light blue glass pendant that she bought in Nova Scotia, which I wore on our wedding day in July. Little did she know the significance of beach glass and how, growing up on lake shores, the blue beach glass was always the most treasured.
She mailed me It’s a Wonderful Life, her favorite Christmas movie, for Christmas.
We shared a love for Meg Ryan, and she paid me one of the greatest compliments of my life when she said that I reminded her of Meg.
She told me, three months before she died, “You never know where the miracle is.” This became my new mantra.
She was the glue of her family, the one who held the history, the one who connected hearts through cooking, baking, and her blog, Bakeaway with Me.
She was joy, she was love, she was strength. And December 10th was her birthday.
Kathy, I cannot even begin to imagine how much you are missed by those who had the gift of more time with you ~ because I will miss you forever, and we only spent a few handfuls of days together.
I wrote the rest of this post last March, one week after she died.
Spiritual health forms the heart of overall wellness, if you open yourself to it. It imbues a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and connection, and it holds a multitude of meanings.
For my forever mother-in-law, it meant, among many other things, baking.
As she said to me last December: "You never know where the miracle is."
Kathy passed away on March 1st , 2016, after battling her second round of cancer. Full of life and heart, some of Kathy's greatest passions were family, faith, baking, and blogging.
An avid baker, Kathy spent years reading food blogs before stepping outside her comfort zone to start her own. As she wrote: “Very few things are as comforting to me as spending time in my kitchen!! It's my adult sandbox!”
Baking was a form of spiritual health for Kathy, as it allowed her time to play in one of her favorite places, and, more importantly, served as a vehicle for sharing stories. As one of the family “historians”, Kathy sprinkled her blog with family stories and anecdotes. Her writing was as much about family as it was about food, and this is what her readers cherished.
This is a post from July 2016, just several months before she stopped writing.
Some people, even if we only know them a short while, have an almost magical grace about them. And carrying their strength lightens the sometimes unbearable load of loss – a loss that inspires us to take a step back out of the constant daily hustle and out of our established routines, productive and beneficial though they may or may not be, to really think about how we want to live our lives.
Mary Oliver asked: "Tell me, what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
I rather agree with Nora McInerny Purmont, who wrote (in her book It's Okay to Laugh, a wonderful read for anyone who has ever lost anyone, which is all of us) – that Oliver's line is "like YOLO for women with Pinterest".
In some ways, YES: I want to live that one wild and precious life!!
In other ways: Woah. That's a lot of pressure. Can't I just have a good time and do what needs doing and have that be enough? Yes, I would love to spend every morning writing poetry in the woods, but come on.
Yet, at the end of the day, I do want to make the most of this life. Like Kathy, I want to share life in the ways that matters most.
For a long time, I had a mixed relationship with prayer. On the rare instances that I prayed, I wasn’t really sure to whom I prayed, for what I prayed, or how to pray. Now I understand that it doesn’t matter.
Prayer is more a state of mind, an opening to some kind of connection, a comfort, a small letting go, a faith in meaning that you may or may not be able to understand, a sense of grace in holding whatever comes next.
As Ann Lamott articulates in Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers:
“Grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”
Grace is a smile from a stranger on a challenging day. Grace is a film that makes you cry when you need to connect to something bigger than your day.
And grace is leading with thoughts like, "You never know where the miracle is."
Bake away, my friends ~