Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food and a Corpse

Death and food are weird partners in my family. Let me explain.

An understanding recently came to me: when my grandmother died a few weeks ago, that while her dead body was still cooling off in her bed and the funeral home caretaker was in her driveway sitting in a hearst, my parents and sister were eating lunch just a smidge away from a corpse.

I guess at one level it doesn't matter. I grew up in a farm family with life and death as a constant part of our drama. Memories of trying to eat our 4-H projects would be just one example.

Grandma died just before lunch at 12:15 p.m. The hospice nurse had been called. She did her thing. An uncle came and wailed. The funeral home was waiting to take the body, but a cousin wanted to see the remains at home before final departure. My sister called and left a message on my phone to return her call.

It didn't dawn on me when I returned my sister's call at 1:25 p.m. that when she said she needed to get off the phone for lunch, that Grandma was still in the bed, just a few steps away from the kitchen.

My diabetic dad and hypoglygemic sister were famished. The food was already ready.

"Gotta go; gotta eat," she said with urgency.

It wasn't until the next day when we spoke that I "got" the timeline and scenario. This was the same conversation where we were talking about mom's insistence to hold a meal after the funeral for family only back at the house.

There would be no public gathering for my very public grandmother; no sharing of food with others or connecting with friends for support. Just the family, back at the house - something my mother had been trying to organize for the past ten years. This time the family would submit. And they did.

Thinking back to the post-death scene, I'm not sure that lunch was necessary. Maybe a stick of cheese to hold the blood sugar. A piece of fruit and some veggies. But I know my immediate family. This was a full-blown Sunday meal.

For some people, personal safety requires a security system, guns, police, or the military. For my family, it is food.

The production of food (farming), the selling of food (grocers), and the consuming of food (often with health consequences) give us a fragile sense of security. Which, paradoxically, also creates great anxiety when anything messes with any of these variables.

This isn't normal. It's a reaction to something.

Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst, points out that anorexics have an underlying death wish. They want to evaporate, go away. Those who overeat or are bulimics actually have a strong desire to live. They keep eating to connect with life, and want more, more, more, mindlessly stuffing themselves, filling the hole. Neither are healthy.

But, my grandmother loved food. Perhaps this was a legacy of her love.

This isn't any more morbid than Jesus saying, "Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood.

Communion. A creative act of imagination, a mystery, that touches the heart. Or, just a basic act of living another day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Filling big paws

I love my meditation group. It's mine in a way that simply means I feel a part of a community. I also enjoy learning about life's mysteries with them.

I'd forgotten about one of the mysteries until this evening.

I clipped the tip of my thumb pruning back flowers. (There goes harp practice for a few days.)

It wasn't until I'd cleaned it up and bandaged it, that I thought about a mini-revelation the group shared with each other last week.

After talking about lots of things, the eldest in the group mentioned that the last job she had required fingerprinting for a background check. They had a hard time getting her finger prints from her fingers. She said she was told that the elderly lose their fingerprints.

She proudly held up her 80 year-old hands and proclaimed that the ridges were barely there.

This seemed to capture the interest of the rest of the group. Everyone started looking at their hands.

Someone about 78 years of age commented that, indeed, the ridges on his fingers were pretty smooth. Others looked over their fingers a little harder squinting through their glasses and moving their hands closer and further to gain better clarity.

How cool!

I'm struck by the similarity of watching a small group of children compare developmental changes in their bodies or excitement from learning something new about themselves.

As I bang my sore thumb on the keyboard writing this, I am reminded that should I live long enough, I too, will probably wear off the ridges of my finger prints - if I can keep my fingers intact! I just hope that a group of friends will surround me as we explore these changes together!