Friday, May 18, 2018

When it's not just a salad

I found myself crying into a bowl of lettuce at eight o'clock this evening. Not because I hate salads or anything, I like them just fine, but my reason for making this particular salad is that my friend Kristy is dead.

I'm a Mormon woman in my thirties, so it goes without saying that I have made a lot of food for funerals. Many times, in fact, for people I don't even know. But this time, this salad, is for the family of a good friend, taken too soon by cancer. Making sure her family doesn't have to worry about what to eat before burying her is something concrete her friends can do with their grief. So I make a salad.

Kristy and I served together in a church assignment when I first moved to Laramie six years ago. There are few things that forge connections like serving together, and Kristy and I were in two different Primary presidencies together for three years. We got to spend a few hours together every week, serving the children at our church, and because of that we became close friends. It didn't matter that we were in different stages of life (her youngest child is ten years older than my oldest). We enjoyed each other's company and respected and appreciated each other's devotion to the children and families at our church.

I try not to be too sarcastic on the internet, as you can't always determine tone in a tweet and no one's created a sarcasm font yet. But in real life, I just can't help it. I'm snarky, impatient, and a little judgy. That side of me came out a lot in our presidency meetings, especially when we had to deal with an adult assigned to teach children who consistently refused to show up or even let us know she was not going to make it. That's hard on kids, and that made it hard on us. I had to be polite to that person at church, but in the privacy of our meetings? I aired my true feelings.

Here's what I will always remember about Kristy: During those meetings where I railed against people who were being worse than useless (and disappointing kids in the process), she always acknowledged my frustrations. I never felt like she was frowning upon me for any of the things I said. And yet, at the same time, she never joined in with my ranting. She never (literally, never) said anything unkind about anyone else. She had the ability to see a person's faults but not hold those faults against them. (I do not have this ability.) She extended that gift to everyone she knew, including me. I was blessed because of it.

How do you choose a lettuce to honor a person like that? I'm sure the young couple chasing their toddler around the produce section wondered why I was standing in front of the lettuces, sniffling. I stared at the rows of greens at Safeway for five minutes, unable to decide between Romaine and green leaf. Both looked limp, to be honest, so I went with the red leaf.

Little cherry tomatoes, or chopped-up heirloom tomatoes for the person who remembered to send you a birthday card when she was dying of cancer? Red onions or no? They're so tasty, but they make your breath smell so bad. But who cares? No one's going to be kissing anyone else, it's a funeral. And that makes me think of her husband, not kissing anyone for a long time because his wife is gone and he'll be so sad, and it's so ridiculously unfair that Kristy's not here and I hate this, I hate making this salad because it's not just a salad.

It's the last thing I will do for my friend.


  1. Kara, I am so sorry for your lost. I cried. The leader of my tiny writing group lost her good friend last week suddenly and wrote about her for us. Last year we lost another member to a heart attack. We reeled for weeks. He was the funniest man I ever knew, had me laughing one week and he was gone the next. But his stories stay with me, images that make me cry and smile at the same time. Our friends never really leave us. And now I am crying again, and the tears are good for the soul. Thank you for the tribute to you friend.

    1. Thanks Rebecca. I'm sorry for your loss, too. I'm sure that was really hard on you and your writing group.