My friend's dad died this past Thursday. His death was not unexpected, as he had severe Parkinson's Disease (previous post). I have known this family for nearly 40 years now. My friend and I have been friends since we both moved to Vilonia in the fourth grade. Her mother taught business classes there. We took her typing class.
My friend lives in Rowlett, TX and was due to arrive at her parent's home Saturday afternoon. So I drove up to visit with her and her family. I beat my friend by a few hours. I ended up spending several hours there, watching people come and go. Mrs. R and I were the only two there for an hour or so. Her words "I'm going to go to the back room and make some more calls. I don't feel bad about leaving you in here alone, because you're family. You know what I mean?" She left me to make some calls for her to local hotels asking about rates for out-of-town family and friends.
I was struck by all the food that visitors brought. I was enlisted to help put some of it into zip-lock bags or other containers so that it could be frozen. We cleared the kitchen counter of pies, cakes, rolls, and casseroles that would freeze. They told me they had already done this once. And yet with the next wave of folks, more food came. The counters quickly filled up again.
I didn't take food. I had read somewhere about 5 years ago (Hints for Heloise or Ann Landers) that families with illness or deaths in the family often needed supplies/staples. It listed items like toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates/utensils, Kleenexes, coffee/creamer, note cards with stamps, etc. So that is what I have begun to do.
Mrs R encouraged all her visitors (would-be-comforters) to eat. Then she would try to get them to fix themselves a plate or two of food to take home. Part of this was simply her good nature of caring for folks. Even in this time of her grief, she was trying to take care of others. Part of it was as she explained, the need to reduce the food in the house. The family was feeling overwhelmed by the food and didn't want it to be wasted or go bad before they could eat it. Yet they were running out of freezer space. Mrs R at one point asked "Why do they all feel they need to bring us food?"
Here in the south, that seems to be the way we are raised. Funerals and the family visitations seem to be a time of feeding and by extension eating. Food is very much associated with comfort. We don't seem to be able to just go and sit and listen and tell stories and share photos/memories without taking something to the family. We want to "feed" them as a way of trying to ease "this difficult time". I would have felt "guilty" or as if I had let my own mother down if I had not taken something. But I think for my friends, they would have been happy for me just to have come as I did and spent time.
It felt funny to me to leave with a plate of food, but it made Mrs R feel better. She wanted me to take two or three plates.