Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Pass It On: A Jar Full of Soup or Some Microwaved Chicken May Be the Best Help for a Grieving Person

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Pass It On: A Jar Full of Soup or Some Microwaved Chicken May Be the Best Help for a Grieving Person

Article excerpt

Earlier this week I impulsively phoned Polly, a kindhearted, no-nonsense woman old enough to be my mother. Except at church, I hadn't talked with her since saying good night at her front door one evening last winter. Her husband had been in intensive care. Hearing his time was short, I had responded as my parents would have: Dad's neighborly concern coupled with Mom's culinary efforts. Without calling ahead, I'd driven to Polly's and dropped off three quarts of vegetable-beef soup. "A few lunches for you. Just heat it up. No need to return the containers"--a burn-blemished plastic casserole and a wide-mouth Ball jar, once filled with Mom's canned goods.

Polly had invited me in out of the rain. I stayed five minutes, never taking my coat off. Later that night her husband died.

Since then I'd thought of Polly--not often enough, what with holiday travels and work worries and fears of a new world war.

But then this week, my Tuesday evening cooking spree prompted my Wednesday morning call. "Oh, hello, Evelyn," Polly answered.

Hearing a hint of depression, I got right to the point. "I have this idea. Tell me if it's good of bad."

Her dry humor prevailed. "Well, I'd hope to have an intermediary choice, but let's hear it."

"Last night I roasted a chicken with stuffing. And I'd like to bring it over this evening and eat with you."

She didn't hesitate. "Well, that sure would make me focus on what I need to do today. Clean up the house for you. It's a great idea. It'll give me something to anticipate."

I suggested that she boil a few potatoes; I'd provide the side dishes: coleslaw and a fruit cup.

At 6:30 Polly invited me in out of the rain. Seeing her kitchen still undone, I didn't ask about her day. I focused on one impressive accomplishment, the dining room table cleared and covered with a white lacy cloth.

She'd already cooked and drained the potatoes. As we microwaved chicken sliced from the carcass and set the table with folded cloth napkins and glass dinner plates, Polly talked. I listened. Her themes mirrored concerns of my dad after my mother's death. Polly resists people--her children, neighbors, lawyer--telling her how to run her life; she may be a tad addled but she hasn't completely lost her facilities. …

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