The first lasagna came the first night I got home from the hospital. Jeff and I were switching off between the hospital with Lilly and being home with the other two kids and it was my night home. The doorbell rang and it was my neighbor Bill. He looked ashen and held a lasagna in his hands. "I'm sorry to bother you but Marjorie and I wanted you to have this. You can freeze it if you need to." Behind him I could see my next door neighbor Sue looking disapproving. It was her job to keep the crowds away and manage the meals. Bill had slipped by her and she wasn't happy about it. I smiled and waved her off.
Under Sue's expert management, the meals came twice a week. There would have been more if we had wanted between the nursery school, the elementary school, and our church we were inundated. At one point, I ran into a friend in the grocery store. "I tried to get on your meal list but it's easier to sign up for the Titan swim classes," she said, referring to a popular class that you have to camp out for to get your kid into.
The truth is I had plenty of time to cook. We only went to the hospital for chemo once a week and the rest of the week looked (though it did not feel) fairly normal. I kidded Jean the social worker at Children's Memorial. "It's like people think casseroles can cure cancer,"
She laughed and then said, "People want to help. Let them." And so I did.
And it was good. These women, having made countless meals for each other as each child was born were expert at putting together a fabulous, nutritious, kid-friendly meal with a bottle of wine thrown in for mom and dad. But it was more than that, much more than that. Their meals were prayers in action; a ritualistic offering; quite simply they were love you could eat.
I've been remembering those days lately because I've been called on to make a few meals for church members. Young and old, facing illness and too much time in a hospital. I am so very grateful for the chance to make these meals. To give back just a little to the universe that fed us so well seven years ago. To deliver a prayer in a casserole dish.
I always said that science cured Lilly and prayer got us through it.
And the casseroles certainly helped.