Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Good-Bye and A Hallelujah

  This has been an introspective week, or even month.  My very dear friend, whose blog link appears here, "lost" her mother this week.  (Lost is such a strange term in the situation of passing on or transitioning, isn't it?)  Kathy's mother was the same era as my mother; they were less than 3 1/2 years apart, with my mother being born in the fall of 1910, and Kathy's mother in 1914.  My mother has been gone for a decade now, and the emotions still catch me off guard.  I must say, losing one's mother is something that one never gets over, no matter what the relationship was.
   So today during the funeral services, I was feeling especially tender and vulnerable.  It was a lovely and poignant memorial, with the family sharing the tributes, providing the music, and making everyone appreciate being there.  Kathy had the honor and privilege of caring for her mother in her home for the past several months, and I was touched and inspired by the loving way Kathy surrendered all her own needs to unselfishly and beautifully serve her 96 year old mother.  She was an example of service and love, and I was keenly aware that I could not have done what she did.  As I listened to all the speakers, I was treated to an understanding of why Kathy has so many talents and interests, as well as outright gifts.  She was the third and last daughter, and in that position in the family, she got to witness and learn from all of the others, and she has been a stellar student.  I must say, Kathy is one of the most exceptionally interesting, unique, and talented women I know.  I could see where she got her love of poetry and writing, of performing, her musical talents, and her amazing way with people.   It has been said that life can only be understood by looking backwards, but it must be lived forward, the message in "It's a Wonderful Life."  We all need the reminder sometimes of how amazing life is, how much we need each other, how we are all connected, how our lives intertwine and affect everyone around us.  I must say, there was such love in evidence at the funeral, and maybe that's the real gift in them.  I have had three funerals this month, all close friends and relatives, and I guess I'm pondering my own mortality.  Since we never know from one moment to the next, we need to pay attention to the present and make it count.
    Well, after being nostalgic and wistful, I came home to a forwarded email from a mutual friend of mine and Kathy's.  Dear Mary Ann sent this, and as I watched it, I came totally unglued and melted on the spot.   You may not know that I sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as did Kathy's mother, that singing is a passion for us; Kathy and I first met in the U of U a cappella choir.  Kathy went on to become a local opera star.   I went the folk singing route with my husband, and then remained in the local choirs. 
  In this holiday season, there is only one piece of music that speaks straight to my heart.  The Hallelujah Chorus, celebrating the birth of Christ, might also be thought to herald the birth of a human into the next abode;  the leaving here is a birth elsewhere, with much rejoicing and embracing.   Who knows?  I'd like to think it.
What a gift.   Thank you, Mary Ann and Kathy, and all of you,  for the reminders of love, friendship and connectedness we all share.
Enjoy  each moment.  And tell a family member and a friend how much they mean to you.
(I hope I tell my own loved ones enough times that they KNOW it to be true.) xoxo
The Holidays are upon us.  Let's use them wisely.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The FAMOUS Grandma English Thanksgiving Jello Salad

John's mother, Mary Jim, was not known for her cooking.  Rather, she was  famous for always serving Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners every gathering, except for Thanksgiving.  When it was her turn to cook, she was THE BEST.  Her turkeys were the moistest (is that a real word?), her stuffing was "over the moon", to use Allison's words, and everyone loved the Cranberry Jello Salad.   She had to make two of them, beautifully molded and set, because we all took seconds and thirds, and it was better than dessert.  I'll bet Kathy's family has a written recipe, but somehow I never wrote it down, probably because I thought Grandma English would always  be around to make it.   So, this year I googled recipes, and found a pretty good facsimile.   If anyone in the English Family has the "real" recipe, please let me know.
Here are the (approximate) ingredients.  They change, depending on what's in the cupboard or refrigerator.
Raspberry Jello, large box
can crushed pineapple, small, undrained
can of cranberry sauce, either whole berry or jellied.
1/2 - 1 cup each of chopped cranberries and walnuts, with optional apples and/or celery.
Use only two cups boiling water.  The rest of the liquid comes from the pineapple and cranberry sauce.
Dissolve the jello, add the cranberry sauce until mixed, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Set.
If you like topping, once the jello is set up, you can add the following:
Whip together 1 c. sour cream, 1 pkg, cream cheese, 1 c. sugar.
Dissolve small box of lemon jello with 1 c. boiling water.
Whip the cream mix with the jello mix.
Spread on top of the cranberry jello salad.
Or, whip cream, add sugar and vanilla.   Or any combination of the above.
Set up.
Be grateful for family traditions while they last.  
Happy Thanksgiving, with gratitude, to my family.