How does one put into words, sadness, caring, joy and gratitude, all in the same breath? This week I was given a special gift in the wake of someone else’s tragedy.
There are blessings to be received through all adversity, that I am certain of.
Just before Thanksgiving my friend Angel lost her sister, Belinda to brain cancer. When tragedy strikes there is very little we can actually do. We can empathize, we can imagine the grief yet there is little we can do to ease the pain. I offered to do the only thing I could think of, to help with food for after the service.
The Reyes family were welcoming 130 people into their home to say goodbye to Belinda.
I arrived, wearing an apron and let myself in through the side kitchen door. Having ‘worked’ quite a few funerals throughout the years, I know that an apron is a signal that you are there to work and to be of service. There was a woman busy at the sink, already doing dishes, helping to keep things in order. I assumed she was either a friend or family member and doing exactly what I usually do, trying to stay busy and DO something. I let her know I was there to help, she could feel free to go visit. Alas, she was not going to be deterred from her duties at the sink.
Family and friends drifted through the side kitchen door bringing platters and pans of food. In came enchiladas, rice and beans, lasagna and baked ziti, ham and potatoes, lumpia with dipping sauce, fried chicken and an entire table of wonderful desserts. It is said, ‘The kitchen is the heart of the home’ and it was very apparent that this kitchen was indeed a warm and welcoming place where family and friends have gathered to laugh and to cry for many years.
Together, my kitchen partner and I worked in unison, organizing and staging the platters and trays of food, communicating in the universal language of needing to do something. By the time the service started we had everything under control and we sat in silence in the the kitchen and listened with tears in our eyes as Belinda’s family and friends said goodbye. Belinda left behind a great legacy which was most aptly stated by her 6 year old grandson Curtis, as he bravely stood before the crowd and expressed his love and understanding.
I didn’t ‘know’ Belinda, but I do know that I would have loved her. She was strong in her faith, outspoken and outgoing, kind and selfless, she gave of herself. She was very loved! An example of a life well lived. Belinda touched the lives of many people, including mine – a complete stranger.
As the service ended, wiping tears from our eyes my kitchen partner and I jumped into action. Trays were rotated through the kitchen, platters washed and put away while more trays were moved into place. It felt as if we had worked together for years. She could read my mind and anticipated exactly what was needed. Somehow, even the kitchen felt familiar.
As the feeding frenzy settled, one by one, family started wandering into the kitchen.
“Thank you so much for your help. By the way, how do you know our family?”
Then came a young man with a big smile, “Do you speak Spanish?”
“No, I sure don’t, I wish I did though.”
“How in the world do you communicate with her?” he nodded toward my kitchen partner.
“No problem! We speak a universal language.”
At the end of the day as we hung up our kitchen towels, it occurred to me that I didn’t know my partners name, I had never properly introduced myself.
I gave her a hug and said “My name is Penny. Thank you so much.”
She hugged me back and said, “Gracias. Mi nombre es, Alicia”
There are indeed blessings to be received through adversity.
I am blessed to have met Angel and to be able to call her a friend.
I am blessed to have been welcomed into Mr. and Mrs. Reyes’ home and allowed to help during their time of need.
I am blessed to have witnessed the outpouring of love for this amazing family.
I am blessed to have worked with Alicia.
As it turns out, Alicia didn’t know Belinda either. She is a friend, of a family friend. She and I were there for exactly the same reason. We both felt the need to “do” something.
I know I came away having received far more than I was able to give.
Indeed, I am blessed.