On life, death, stories and slow cookers

137_3721 - with grampy

We’ve been using our slow cooker a lot these days to make dinner, following recipes from a book called The French Slow Cooker, and enjoying it so much that I almost wish I were still actively working on my food blog. I wasn’t really into slow cookery back then, and I wonder now how I ever managed without it. It’s so easy—just assemble and prep your ingredients, put them all into the pot, plug the slow cooker in…and walk away. A few hours later, you come home—or wake up to—a delicious hot meal.

I guess cooking is a lot like writing, in a way. You gather random ideas and store them away, until one day when you need them and you take them and try them out. Some ideas complement each other while others contrast. And you stir and simmer until finally you have something that is hopefully palatable and nourishing, or at least won’t give anyone indigestion.

This week’s main ingredient seems to be death. It all started with a lecture I attended last week at the Atwater Library, given by Sandra Martin, the obituary writer for The Globe and Mail. Ms. Martin had many stories to tell about the fascinating Canadians she got to interview in the course of her career, and a few myths to debunk about the craft of obituary writing. The one that struck me the most was that most people are actually willing and even eager to talk about death—particularly if they are dying. I suppose it helps enormously if the listener tries to focus the conversation, as Ms. Martin does, on the person’s life—and not just about what they did,  but who they were. I was reminded of a personal conviction I’ve always had, but haven’t thought about lately: that every life is a story worth listening to. And many of those stories are lost forever, because there was nobody around at the end to listen.

I know many people are afraid of death. I don’t think I am, at least not very much. For now, the one thing that stands out most clearly for me, in my previous limited experience with death, is the terrible sinking feeling, once you know that someone you love is dead, that they are so simply and yet quite irrevocably beyond your reach; that you will never again hear their voice or see their face for as long as you live. For weeks and months afterward you think of things that you’d like to tell them, only to remember all over again that they are gone.

It must be infinitely worse if you believe that this separation is for eternity, and it helps me understand a little why some people are utterly destroyed by the death of a loved one.

My father died last year, and I miss him everyday. But I believe that after death comes another life—the life we were meant to have—where he and other people I love are waiting for me.

Until then, there’s a lot of living left to do, and a lot of stories to listen to.

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