I tried the year in review app on Facebook this morning just to see what photos would appear. To my FB friends and family, no worries, I won’t be sharing. After 12 years of cancer tugging at us, directing us, cajoling our decisions, and inserting chaos that most don’t ever have to deal with for that duration, Nasir passed on October 28th.
We have just had our first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without his smile, calmness, and love. The pervasive sadness and grief felt among our children and myself has permeated most of the holidays. The subtle family traditions I wasn’t even aware of have been everywhere.
“Mom, what are we going to have for breakfast on Christmas morning, Dad always made his frittata?” “Should we hang Dad’s stocking?” “Is Santa coming this year?” – wink, wink. Mexican wedding cakes, pecan tarts and fudge – all of his favorites that we made each year. The Thai food – his favorite shared with my brother’s family on Christmas eve. The gift bags from last year with his name – either to him or from him. His gentle reminders of the Muslim holiday traditions and focus on acceptance of all beliefs, as we celebrated one of the biggest Christian holidays. His love of food, family and friends, and most of all Us.
Yes, this holiday is also marked with memories of him in the hospital. One Christmas day because of an infection. Another because of side effects from chemotherapy. Another Christmas day with him home but on 100 mg of daily prednisone to calm the graft versus host disease from his transplant. And, yet, another, with him too weak to do much of anything but sit quietly in his chair in pain from the infections in the bones in both legs.
Our children are brave. Society talks about the “fight” against cancer. The warrior, hero, survivor in those that “battle” the disease. Aggressive words. Each one of them conjuring feelings of control filling our human pysche with a feeling of power. Truth is, with cancer, there is much chaos making the family in the “fight” feel powerless.
I found myself rummaging through our cookbooks for a remotely similar frittata recipe. Frustrated at myself for not keeping better track of things, oh, so many things, I decided it was time to vett through the loose papers among my cookbooks. Amidst the chaos, the loose recipes, and old recipe books I hadn’t looked through in years, a single piece of paper fell to the floor. Neatly folded with very small writing I let it lie there while I continued to vett through the mess. He never wrote anything down. Rarely cooked, but always a frittata on Christmas morning. Why didn’t he write it down? Why didn’t I do it?
Finding a basic frittata recipe in Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, I at least had a go to. Time to put it all back on the shelves. And there it was the piece of paper that had fallen to the floor a half an hour earlier. A Christmas present from Nasir.
Yesterday morning our daughter, his sous chef the past few years, made his recipe. We missed him terribly. We said grace, shared more memories, and enjoyed his gift of love – Nasir’s frittata – forever one of our family’s traditions.
Roberta Anding says
My heart breaks for your family and marvels in the courage at the same time.
Thank you Jeannie, for sharing him with us all!! He was an incredible person.
Thank you Johnna. He touched an amazing number of lives in his calm, gentle way. We miss him terribly.
That was so beautifully written, so heartfelt and true, it brought tears to my eyes. Everyone talks and knows about the “big” things that are missed when someone dies, their very presence, their voice, etc. But so often it is the small things, like the frittata, the traditions that are invariably changed because he is gone, that are so devastating and hit you when you least expect it. Thank God the kids have you and that you have the kids, you’ve all been through so much and are so strong together.
Ah if anybody knows the heartbreak it’s you Stacy. He loved you guys and just adored Andrew. He is with us in so many ways and I am truly blessed with our children who have taught me so much as he and I tried to maneuver through the crazy, ever changing maze of cancer. XO
I love finding these little gifts, it always makes me smile 🙂
I hope it does the same for you
I still do Yvi .. find the small gifts. I hope you are well. Sending love, Jeannie
Gregg Fishman says
in this great complexity of emotion, conflict and seeking that is the human condition, you have experienced something that most of us will not. In all the sad, tired, chaotic moments,(days, weeks, years) as you have described them, there is also beauty, grace, love, and redemption. I am sorry for your loss…but grateful that you choose to share it in this way. I am in awe of the way you are guiding your children through this difficult journey. In Judaism, we say “May his memory be a blessing” for someone who has passed. This is evidently already the the case for you and your kids, but I will pass along the sentiment to you anyway!
Thank you, Gregg.