Sunday, August 2, 2015

Death and Cookies

Death stands next to me in the kitchen watching me make cookies. He gets way too close, his murky odor distracting me as I measure portions of raisins and oats.
Death’s shadow and I have been keeping company a lot these days.  I think he especially wants beautiful Sara because her heart’s so good. A bad-mannered suitor, he grabbed her breast and slid into her spine, not realizing what kind of backbone he was dealing with. That woman’s faith has gotten her through sixty-some-odd years of more than you want to know. We know she needs a miracle, and she’s gotten sidetracked from what she does best, which is full-time ministering to people as a pastor.  I think when she comes through this, she’ll fill her kitchen with people seeking the warmth of her great spirit.
I add a teaspoon of ginger and listen to a public radio interview with a Unitarian minister who has esophageal cancer. He got himself so right with God and Death that for a long moment that man forgot his family was in this, too. Then he got a year’s reprieve. When Death came knocking a second time, “My family and I had already had the dress rehearsal,” said the minister. Bet his wife and kids didn’t look at it that way.
I hear people say, “I’m not scared of dying.”  Maybe all the people who love them are scared. So think of that next time you get all philosophical about leaving this earth. We still want you.
Death still hangs around as the flour and rising agents fall gently out of the sifter. At least one of us is disturbed to see something wiggling. I scoop out the little wormy things and give Death a few treats.  
“That’s all you’re getting from me today, buddy,” I say, as I cream the healthy substitute butter with the natural substitute sweetener that’s supposed to help keep me on earth longer.
Some of the cookies are for a rabbi with a sweet tooth. “Who will say kaddish for me,” asked the bachelor Rabbi in a sermon twenty years ago, when he could still tap dance. Possibly everyone he has ever met, I think, as people come up to him wherever we go. From birth to death, he has been a part of every life cycle event. Now, at 82, brilliant and sparky despite crippling spinal stenosis and Parkinson’s, he taps sitting down, his feet clicking to Gershwin and the Beatles.
I’m making these cookies in my writer friend David’s kitchen. “So what happens when Jews die?” he asks. His lymphoma has him walking the tightrope between Christian Science and modern science. So far, he’s finding his balance.
“No heaven and hell. We’re about the here and now, though reincarnation would be great. I can’t get everything accomplished in one lifetime,” I tell him as I plop cookie dough onto the next baking sheet.
When I bend over to open the oven door, Death pokes me as rudely as a wet nosed dog.
He leans close, rotten breath whispering, “Make room for me.”  I slide the second batch into the oven. Then, fed up, I shove Death in, too, and quickly close the door. No matter how much sugar you add, death stinks, but for the time being, the comforting scent of oatmeal cookies completely fills the kitchen.
I divide up the sweets for Sara, David, and the Rabbi.

This morning I revisited this piece written in 2009 because that greedy bastard Death is trying to take my uniquely creative friend who conquered prostate cancer, then colon cancer, and other challenges. He and his wife kept those trials a secret until now, years later. So I say Misheberach for him, the Jewish prayer that asks for r'fuah shleimah, the Hebrew words for the complete healing of body and spirit.
We sat around my dining room table in Florida, talking about beauty and laughing about life's ironies  as I fed my friends, who I love to cook for. May we share a meal  again.

Healing Prayer Scarves
I originally posted this as a guest blogger on author Judi Hendricks' blog.
Beautiful Sara died in May 2014, the day after I got out of the hospital, her loss still a fresh wound to my heart. The rabbi passed away at 86. David just turned 79.

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