As Friday was the sixth anniversary of our 16-year-old son’s death, my husband and I went out to a quiet lunch at Panera Bread where delicious soups and sandwiches can be found. Mindful of what this day meant, I was cheerless, disinterested in eating, and unconcerned with what the menu boasted. I reluctantly settled without enthusiasm on an order of chicken noodle soup.
When my selection arrived in its colorful ceramic bowl, I remotely picked up the spoon lying beside it and absentmindedly stared at the noodles, vegetables, and shredded meat that were floating in the steaming broth. Slowly stirring the cooked carrots and bits of celery, I prepared to eat, but instead, could only think of my beautiful son. Choking on my heavy emotion, I cried, ducked my head and hid my sad heartache from the other patrons who were laughing and enjoying their platters of chips and hugely stacked sandwiches.
Staring at my lunch, my mind lurched backwards six years and I instantly remembered all of the slow-cookers and steaming pots of soup that people brought to our house after Zachary died. I recalled how good they all smelled, yet how little I was able to swallow. I thought of the kind hands that had prepared them and all of the love and goodwill they were meant to communicate.
Now here I was sad and trying to eat soup again, ever so slowly with my head drooped, my eyes tearing, and my throat choked tight with emotion. Is this what sad people do who have lost loved ones? Eat soup?
My son had been gone six years. Things were supposed to get easier, weren’t they? Time was supposed to heal all wounds, wasn’t it? How could my child’s death still hurt so badly and the pain of missing him still cripple me in such sorrow?
While my husband’s kind eyes roamed sympathetically over my face, I ignored the other customers in the restaurant, swallowed hard, and purposefully took a bite of my warm soup. And then another. And then, slowly, slowly, I ate that soup — chasing every soggy noodle onto my spoon with increasing strength and speed. I couldn’t help but notice I felt a lot better: the broth warmed me, the chicken strengthened me, and the colorful little vegetables even cheered me.
It was then I recognized the importance of the lowly bowl of soup before me. Something that should have already been obvious became perfectly clear: People eat soup for good reason! It gently restores a nutritional need, soothes sadness, and promotes healing. It is easy on the stomach and even easier on the mind! My humble peasant lunch taught me there is a time and place for sadness, sorrow, and warm broth with mild and tender ingredients. Likewise, there is a season in our lives for reflection, memories, and tears.
Perhaps next time, instead of grudgingly accepting another bowl of soup, I will welcome the opportunity to feed my grief and by totally embracing its pain, I will experience healing and true renewal.
May you, too, find ways to feed your grief,