Friday marks two weeks since my beloved neighbor passed away unexpectedly. To know this man was to love him, and his passing shook our rural community on many levels. It sounds cliché to say he was the best, except he really was. I don’t want to look for a happy ending to this story, but while grieving this loss alongside others in my community, beautiful moments flickered like candlelight in the dark. This blog post shares more about those times.

The day following our neighbor’s passing, stunned and heartbroken, my husband and I coordinated a meal calendar to support his bereaved family. Over the next couple of days, all 30 of the signup slots were taken, by nearly all different families. The outpouring of immediate support moved me to tears. I would find myself scrolling through the meal calendar at various points in the day, picturing neighbors roasting chicken or stirring soup, prepping pasta or chopping vegetables. I still review it frequently because doing so makes me feel a little better. I’m sure others have felt the same way. It is therapeutic to see this extended group support a family whose husband and father had done so much for all of us.

A few days ago, I reached out to Adina Bailey, the Co-Founder of Take Them a Meal and someone I’ve admired for a long time, about what it is that makes cooking for others so comforting during times of grief.

Adina’s take is that meals connect us, which certainly resonates with my experience. She explains, “Meals connect us whether we are eating at the same table or dropping one off at someone’s house. A meal provider can put love and concern into planning a meal and the recipients are supported by having a basic need met that they do not have the energy to address.”

During the most difficult of circumstances when it feels like there is nothing we can do to make the situation better for loved ones, we can cook, pour our love into the preparation of a meal, and deliver it to them.

Adina Bailey
Take Them a Meal

She continues, “During the most difficult of circumstances when it feels like there is nothing we can do to make the situation better for loved ones, we can cook, pour our love into the preparation of a meal, and deliver it to them. Despite all of the hardship they are facing, our friends will know they are loved and someone cares.”

In addition to meal deliveries, neighbors left tributes in a memorial along the dirt road near the family’s driveway. Flowers, cards, tractors, antlers, a bottle of whiskey, a signed football, the list goes on. His memorial has become an informal gathering place. We’ve stopped there to chat with people with whom we typically meet on road with a passing wave, and introduced ourselves to others while tending to it, refreshing bouquets, and lighting candles at dusk.

Grieving the Loss of a Neighbor Through a Memorial
A memorial to our dear neighbor and friend.

Next weekend, a group of us are planning to plant perennials near the site of his memorial as a lasting tribute to our neighbor. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, heavy hearts and all. Life doesn’t feel normal, and probably won’t for a long time. It’s hard to even imagine what his beautiful family is feeling at this time. From my perspective however, witnessing our community come together has helped ease some of the pain. For that, and all the lessons my neighbor taught me, I am thankful.

Are you grieving the loss of a neighbor or other member of your community? What has helped in your grieving? Have you organized a meal delivery, given a memorial quilt or participated in a different community activity? If so, I would love to hear about it.

As always, thanks for reading.


Comments from our community

My husband passed away 3 weeks before Valentines Day. This wonderful couple invited us to share  their Valentine meal even including my sister who was staying with me. I will be forever grateful to be included in their lives.  Also when his birthday came I wasn’t sure any family was going to do anything special. He loved apple pie so I planned an apple pie party and invited all the people who had been helpful to us during his illness. Of course I served apple pie. These aren’t so much about taking food but rather sharing food during the grief process.

I lost, our whole neighborhood lost, a loving and cherished friend on New Year’s Day. I still cannot think of her without tears, because she was someone who genuinely engaged with every person she knew, rejoicing with them on special occasions and on everyday good times, grieving sincerely at times of loss. As described in your message, dozens of neighbors have contributed meals and messages. It strengthens us and certainly comforts her grieving husband and four sons. Here’s what I would add: this is what we can do for our friend. Take care of her family. Hug them and love them as she would do if she were still with them. 

It sure makes me feel so much closer to the people I am preparing a meal for. Being a part of this ministry has really blessed my life in so many ways.  Even if you are preparing a meal for someone you’ve never met, it just warms your heart knowing you are blessing someone else in their time of need.

We recently lost our son in an accident. We would have loved for others to just come sit with us… You want to isolate after such trauma so having people come beside you to hold you up like Aaron and Hur would be a blessing and is what other moms in my group say as well. When you lose a child you rewrite your address book, people do not reach out because you have experienced every mother’s greatest nightmare. It’s as if you have Covid. In my loss of a child Facebook group, mom after mom write how they just needed someone there to hear them cry, listen, comfort… In summary, you don’t need food, you need someone there to hold you up and you need someone to mention your child. I have started a loss of a child group for moms to do just that. When you lose a child, you don’t move on after a year, that’s when the tough journey begins. That’s when everyone tells you get over it and does not want to hear about your child. It is a painful journey.

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