Tag: Death

Mourning Pie & Hot Wings [Dark Horse Bar and Eatery]

I love my home state of Minnesota. I miss Minnesota. But gosh darn was it nice to step out of the car into 65 degrees and sunny St. Louis. We’ll be back soon, though, and this time there will be snow.

This past week, we made a short trip to the Twin Cities to attend our relative’s funeral. Burrell wasn’t our grandma but she’s been like our grandma for the past seven years. We celebrated her 100th birthday last spring. Even until her later years, Burrell kept her wits about her and remained sharp as a whip. Her hearing never declined either, and she’d often holler her reply from another room if someone was whispering about her. Burrell was a very loving person and, in turn, many people loved her.

She’s my inspiration to pursue balance in life. To strive for a better attitude, seek fresh air and move my body a lot. To keep on enjoying my morning coffee, pats of butter here and there, and a glass of wine in the evenings. At the funeral, her daughter shared a beautiful letter. The part that really stuck with me summarizes the lessons Burrell demonstrated to her loved ones: Be courageous. Be kind. Be hopeful. Be curious.

While we were home, we also celebrated birthdays with Jake’s family at Dark Horse, a new restaurant in the Lowertown area of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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The menu is really eclectic and draws from many flavor profiles, from Thai to Ethiopian cuisines. Our friendly server guided me to one of her favorite whiskeys before we shared several appetizers. While my dining party’s opinions about their dishes ranged, we shared a unanimous enthusiasm for the wings. The menu mentions they’re seasoned with berbere and their special Dark Horse Sauce.

One half of our group requested mild wings while the rest of us devoured the hot. They were really, truly hot; the hottest, most delicious food I’ve eaten since we visited this Thai restaurant on Lake of the Ozarks. My lips burned long after the last wing was gone. Besides the heat and flavor, the wings were large with crisp, rendered skin and tender meat. I haven’t met a better hot wing. They arrived with a light, creamy sauce that everyone wanted more of.

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Top: Dark Horse Wing + sauce. Bottom: Posole with egg and pork + tostada. Pleasantly spicy, very tart.

Laughter over whiskey, mourning over pie. Reverse or juxtapose or repeat. Run it out, talk it out, and sweat it out over heart-achingly spicy food. That’s what I do, at least.

Baking Feelings Into Pies

There’s no wrong way to grieve.

At least, that’s what a therapist told me six years ago when my mom passed away.

Upon the death of my mom, I grieved by not grieving. I didn’t have the time for it. I kept myself busy and plunked along. Ironically, I was a church secretary who helped plan funerals. I never did take any time off from work after her death and even worked at a funeral just days after. When I first started this job, people would ask me if I was going to seminary. I always chuckled and answered, “no.”

“Never say never!” they’d respond.

I’d reply, “In six months, when you know me better, you will laugh at the fact that you ever said this.” Sometimes I did remind them and, indeed, they did laugh.

Funeral ministry is so important and I greatly respect people with hearts for working with those who grieve. I was not one of them. A large part of our congregation was aging and we sometimes planned two to three funerals in a single week. My role included receiving death calls, attending funeral planning meetings, ordering the funeral meal, printing bulletins, and preparing the sanctuary for the services. When my mom died, I discovered I was literally unable to sit with my own grief. How effectively could I sit with others?

In our day-to-day work lives, we talked about death all of the time and relied on humor to cope. My coworker and I loved to play pranks on the Sr. Pastor. We took his children’s sermon puppet hostage and held it for ransom. One winter, I transformed the display of Christmas dolls located in his office into a scene straight from a Tim Burton movie. The dolls had these red velvet smocks and removable foam heads with beady felt eyes. Nobody noticed the scene until he hosted a meeting in his office that included the Bishop.

The Sr. Pastor always responded to our pranks by saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” We always waited for him to retaliate and he never did. One year later, the church laid-off their little secretaries due to budget cuts and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

It wasn’t until three years after I left this job that I could bring myself to visit my mother’s resting place at the mausoleum. I forgot to bring flowers so I left sprigs of asparagus from the farmers market, instead. They were all I had and I’m sure whoever found them was confused.

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I know there are many stages of grief, but I don’t remember exactly what they are. Until Amy’s memorial service, I wallowed in disbelief. I felt too sad to write and wrestled with a great deal of anger. Last week, I may have cursed at everyone driving along 4th Street SW. I wanted to shout fury at everyone who tailgated my vehicle and dismissed them with waves of my hand. I yearned to have words with one of our local news companies (still do) and had to shake my head when I found myself seething over a disappointing rotisserie chicken breast I had brought home from a grocery store that week.

Anger’s a stage of grief, though, right? It’s exhausting and I’m not sure it looks good on me, so I pray for peace. The silver lining on my dark, angry cloud is that I’m never so deep into a rant or flood of tears that someone can’t make me laugh.

Upon the loss of our friend Amy, I’m trying to ride the waves of grief and feel things as they come. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like writing. So, I didn’t write for a few days and it felt good. I think I’m ready now.

Stephen King Quote

One day I cooked up a frenzy and baked my feelings into a homemade apple pie, with Patty Griffin’s song “Making Pies” on my mind. Griffin sings about a woman who lost her loved one in a war. In his interpretation of the song, Jim Beviglia writes, “It doesn’t even matter which war, because the loss felt by those left behind is always the same.”

He adds, “Her choice tells it all: ‘I’m making pies.’ . . . making pies becomes an act of seemingly limitless courage.”

It’s hard to sit with these feelings of grief. It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary and it’s overwhelming. To grieve is to be courageous. Take heart in this and remember that there really is no wrong way to grieve.

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The North Iowa bloggers gathered the night of Amy’s visitation to take a selfie with that selfie stick she was so fond of. She was the only one I knew who had one and she knew how to rock it!

My heart is filled with gratitude for you, my dear readers. During this week of loss and heartbreak, you have shown not only me, but my other North Iowa bloggers a great amount of care and encouragement. I’m so humbled by your kind words, emails, comments and other expressions of support in remembering our friend and grieving with our community. You are so very special to me. Thank you for also keeping her family in your thoughts and prayers. 

© 2019 Jeni Eats

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