Friends enter through the kitchen door….

proteaHow 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.

Posted in Real Life permalink

About Baking Nana

Each morning my granddaughter Sarah calls to ask, “Watcha doing, Nana? Are you baking Nana?” Hence my “name” Baking Nana. I am a mother to three wonderful children and a grandmother to 12 very hungry grandkids. I don’t bake fancy cakes but I do make wonderful yeast bread and home cooked meals made with love.


Friends enter through the kitchen door…. — 35 Comments

  1. Thank you for putting into perspective this view of life and the process of what happens when one leaves it. This was beautifully written and heartfelt in its telling. It certainly makes one want to go forward to help someone in need. Thanks for your post.

  2. Dearest Penny, I can’t thank you enough for making it possible for me and my family to properly mourn and celebrate Belinda. I didn’t have one worry about what was going on in the kitchen once I turned it over to you two masters of the kitchen. I may have glanced over once, only to see the symbiotic flow of my two angels. As we reflected on the day’s event, we kept coming back to the great kindnesses of those who gave of themselves….much as my sister always had done in her life. Truly, what she gave, came back to her. The same will be for you my sweet friend. I know she would have loved you as much as I do.

  3. That’s one big bundle of emotion and sadness put to words…and it is lovely. I’m sitting here blotting my eyes with a tissue, and I imagine you were doing the same thing when writing this. What a dear friend you are to Angel. I hope you share this your blog with her.

  4. Oh Penny, I cannot begin to convey the emotions your blog has conjured up within my heart! So, I will not try. You, my dear and beloved friend are an angel on earth. I do truly believe that we are put on this earth to serve the needs of others. (The by product of which are untold blessings) You are fulfilling your mission with grace and humility. Love you so much!

  5. Hi, BN. I bet this isn’t the first act of extreme kindness you’ve done, and it won’t be the last. I can tell from your posts what a caring person you are – good job here on earth! You ARE blessed and a blessing to know!

  6. Baking Nana, your blog touched my heart. Some people say what can I do? You on the other hand took the initiative to help Angel and the Reyes family. Angel is lucky to have a friend like you. Prayers for the Reyes Family.

  7. I really understand this, both about the universal language of cooks and about being called to service. You did something my mother would have done, and her mother before her. I feel it too, the need to be of some down-to-earth, practical help. There is a time and a place to be like “Mary”, but I’m usually a “Martha”. Blessings come in odd packages, sometimes.

  8. You & Alicia, gave that family peace of mind!! You took their worry about everyday things so they could Celebrate a Wonderful Lady!! So very Proud of you!! I expect nothing less from you:) So very sorry they are having such sorrow. Thank you:))

    • It takes a special confidence to turn over the ‘kitchen’ to complete strangers – this family obviously is so secure that they have the ability to trust. I feel blessed to have been trusted to share in their loss and their gratitude.

  9. Hi; your story brought a tear to my eyes and a memory of my own. Serveral years ago two weeks before Christmas a dear neighbour passed away suddenly without warning. Over the next two weeks I helped look after the wife and their DS, DD and DSIL plus the others that had come to the house. Like others every other day I took over cheese trays, cold cuts and buns. About 1 week later it dawned that no one had a hot meal for over 1 week. So I made a full beef dinner not only for my family but the the 2 dozen people that were at the house. DH and I took over the food and it was well received. Thank you for your story.

    • Thank you for stopping by Nadine. One thing I noticed as I was shufflingly platters and pans was that the lumpia and and fried chicken were the first to go. I am sure that a ‘real’ hot cooked beef dinner was very much appreciated.

    • Thank You, Linda. I struggled with this one. There was so much to say, so many emotions. I can’t imagine being Mrs. Reyes and having to say goodbye to a daughter, let alone having strangers invade the kitchen. I hope she will be able to find everything! They are an amazing family.

  10. Your story brought tears to my eyes. It is people like you who give and expect nothing in return that keep my faith in man-kind alive. I had to say goodbye to my Sister 6 months ago, friends I didn’t even know I had stepped in to take of me. GOD bless you for helping in someone’s time of need. You are an Angel here on earth.

    • Thank you, Patty – my friends have been there for me, taking care of things I didn’t even know needed taking care of! That kindness and caring will never be forgotten. It was my honor to be able to ‘pass it forward”. It is so hard to say goodbye to someone you loved, blessings to you. I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. Prayers to the family in this time of grieving. And to you Mrs penny…blessings to you. You did a very unselfish act that shows the type of person you are…a caring; always out to help and cook for those in need…thank you for being you and speaking the languague of food ! My hats off to you..and Alycia.

    • Thank you Wendy, I didn’t do anything other than do what I KNOW how to do! To be allowed to be a small part of Belinda’s farewell was an absolute blessing. I was the one receiving the ultimate gift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.