Saturday, March 28, 2015

Not just a scone: remembering, waiting, hoping

(photo courtesy of Dancing Goat Cafe, Margaree, NS - used by permission)

Today marks six months since my mom died.  Although this may seem like a strange way to commemorate this milestone, I'm posting a picture of a cranberry-almond scone from the Dancing Goat Cafe in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  Mom and Dad went to Cape Breton a couple of times in the past few years with their close friend Linda.  This cafe, and these scones in particular, were a special favourite of Mom's.

Last summer when Mom became sick, and before we knew just how sick she really was, one of her most significant symptoms was that she lost all interest in food.  We spent a lot of time trying to think of things she might like to eat, but with little success.  She would say wryly, "Dad thinks if I just start eating again everything will be fine."  And I guess he did think that.  We all did:  we thought -- hoped --  that Mom's illness was something relatively minor like an infection, or tiredness due to stress, and that when her appetite returned, so would her strength and health.

One day during that time Linda's daughter Deb, who is also a close friend of my parents, dropped by the house.  She had been in Cape Breton and brought back a box of cranberry-almond scones from the Dancing Goat Cafe.  We asked Mom if she'd like one, and she thought she might.  She ate a quarter of a scone, and we practically celebrated.  We defaulted to those scones many times over the next few days when no other food seemed to interest Mom; she would eat a few bites and seemed to enjoy it.

But her appetite never really returned.  Not long after this, she was hospitalized; a few days after that we received her cancer diagnosis; and she lived only six more weeks.

I spent the last week of Mom's life at the apartment with her and Dad.  Many other relatives and friends came in and out during that time.  One day Deb visited again with her friend Dorothy, whom Mom also knew.  Mom's face lit up enthusiastically when the girls came into her room, and she asked Dorothy how things were in Cape Breton; then she quickly drifted back into unresponsiveness.  I stepped out to let them have some time with her, and I marvelled at my almost-80-year-old mom being visited by two young women in their twenties, to whom she was a beloved friend.

Later that week I answered the door and there was Deb again, this time with another friend named Saskia.  (She had gone to my parents' church for several years, and her parents were friends of Mom and Dad's as well.)  Both girls were carrying two big white bakery boxes, and each box contained six cranberry-almond scones.

Mom couldn't eat anything more at that point, and she died just a couple of days later -- so she never did taste one of those scones. But really, that didn't matter.  What mattered was what they symbolized:  love.  Not just a stingy little crumb, but love in all its extravagance.  The message was, "You love these.  We love you.  So we'll bless you with them, lavishly, because we can.  While we can."

A famous quote by the writer Marcel Proust, in which he meditates on the memories that the mere taste and smell of a cookie evoke, says this:

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.   

- Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time)

Having been through this experience with my mom, I've been reminded that the smallest thing can have great significance.  A scone can be more than just a scone.  It can be a symbol of love -- one that remains, persistent and faithful, long after the breaking and scattering.

18 comments:

  1. What a lovely way to remember! We've lost so many friends and family these past two years, it's surreal. It's those left behind that I find myself mourning for. My grandmother, who died last May, used to love a proper cream tea, which consists of scones, jam, tea and clotted cream. It's so lovely to be able to remember the special times in these small-yet-big ways.

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    1. It's so nice of you to stop by! (It's Sandy, right?) I'm sorry for your losses. It really makes you stop, slow down, and appreciate the smallest things. I'd have loved to go to your grandma's cream tea -- my mom would have too! Although I'd have had to ask for coffee instead ... :-) Thanks again for taking time to comment.

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  2. Hi Jeannie. Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories. It brought tears to my eyes. But most of all it reminded me that each day we can touch those around us and make an impact in their lives. Big or small, we can never know how our personal touch and interaction with someone can potential make a life long impact! Blessings on you.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. I totally agree about doing the little (big) things. Blessings on you & your family too.

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  3. What a tremendous blessing it is to love, to show love and to remember with love. Your precious Mom lives on in you, Jeannie. Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory. ♥ Brenda

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Brenda.

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  4. What a beautiful story, Jeannie. I can almost taste and smell those cranberry almond scones. This is a good reminder to be on the look out for ways we can bless and encourage people with small gifts or even a phone call.

    We just lost an older friend back in Texas to cancer 3 days ago. She stayed at our house here in Izmir last fall with her husband. Like your mom, she was feeling poorly, got a diagnosis, and passed away in a short time. (Two months for Nell.) I'm thinking today about her glorious entrance into heaven. If we could only see the other side, it would be a bit easier for us.

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    1. I know, Betsy. At mom's funeral, the minister preached about how Jesus said He goes to prepare a place for us, so that we can be with Him where He is -- and how this was God's desire for my mom. But we miss her here.

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  5. Beautiful. Without any hint of presumption I say this offers an addition to the significance to the 'breaking of bread'. Bless you jeannie.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah - that's true isn't it?

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  6. Beautiful sadness Jeannie ((hugs))

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  7. Those friends with their bakery boxes must have been a welcome sight to your mother, Jeannie. Like you pointed out with that Proust passage, sights and smells are powerful, even when we don't taste. When they come in the hands of love, they are at their most powerful of all.

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  8. Got tears in my eyes reading this. So beautiful. God bless you and your family.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sandy. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

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  9. Beautiful post, Jeannie. Today, as I reread it, I thought about how those scones represent so much love, extravagant and abundant. But it's more than that. It also represents a foretaste of heaven, where we will experience that love endlessly and fully. Here, we taste the scone for a moment. There, we will endlessly feast on them with our loved ones, experiencing God's love for all eternity. It makes me hungry for heaven, as I'm sure you are, too.

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    1. That's true, Laura. A couple of weeks ago our pastor preached from Nehemiah and discussed the physical restoration of Jerusalem being just a foretaste of the New Jerusalem. The sermon was called "forks and spoons" and he used 2 examples. One was a woman being buried with a fork in her hand because (as with dessert) "the best was yet to come." The other was those little Baskin-Robbins spoons where you can get a tiny taste of a particular ice-cream to see if you like it. That's what your comment reminds me of.

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