A Step Away from Mourning and Back into Life
Ripe avocados sat on the kitchen counter. Still dazed from the aching, numbing grief that had taken over my psyche, my body, my everything, I glanced at them, barely seeing them. Six days earlier, I held my darling seven-year-old Alexa in my arms as she took her last breath, losing a sixteen-month battle with brain cancer. Looking back from a twenty-five year perspective on this anniversary of her death, November 2, 1986, I remember water-walking through those early days. I say water-walking because in my memory, whatever I did, I felt like I was underwater, worse than in a fog, worse than in some sort of altered state. I was heavy, too heavy to move, although I did.
In those six days, I don’t remember much of what I did. I know I spoke to people on the phone. I showered, I made arrangements, I probably ate. I dressed myself. I went to Alexa’s funeral. Those memories are covered with a film, almost as if I view them with eyes covered with Vaseline. Present, but not present, because the present was too much to bear.
Family members flew back to their homes, food brought by friends and neighbors was eaten, and one guest remained—my father-in-law.
I looked again at the avocados and announced to my husband, his father, and my surviving daughter, “These avocados are ripe. Someone should make guacamole with them.”
“Sounds good,” my husband said. “Why don’t you go ahead and make some?”
“What? Me make guacamole? I can’t make guacamole. I can’t do anything,” I thought to myself as I looked at the ripe fruits. And then I reconsidered. “Why not?” I asked myself. “I know how. I can do this.”
I got out the cutting board, the knife, the garlic, the onions, and the salt and pepper. I don’t remember all the steps I took that day, but I imagine they were similar to the steps I take whenever I make guacamole. The difference was my body was leaden. Lifting my arms and using my hands took more effort than seemed possible to do something simple like peel and mash avocados and chop some onions and garlic, and shake in some salt and pepper. My movements were alien, foreign.
I made guacamole, but I don’t remember eating guacamole. I don’t remember even tasting the guacamole. What I do remember is that making guacamole was the first real, tangible non-grief-related thing I did in the early days of mourning.
I’m a firm believer in mourning, in grief, and in taking one’s time to heal from devastating loss. I’m also a firm believer in taking steps back to the land of the living, life, and joy—even if that joy springs from something as basic as making food for the people you love. I will forever be grateful for the ripe avocados on my kitchen counter and the simple suggestion to make some guacamole.
My guacamole recipe is so simple. Mash ripe avocados, mince onions and garlic and add them to the avocados. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper. My former husband thinks I have some sort of magic ingredient or method because my guacamole is the best most folks have ever eaten. None is ever left over, the bowl is just about licked clean. I have no explanation for the extraordinary flavor and appeal, except that I love avocados, I love guacamole, I love life.