IMPERMANENCE IN GRIEF

“Nothing endures but change” Heraclitus

Everything is predisposed to change.  Every aspect of our lives goes through transformation.  Nothing is everlasting.  All physical and emotional concepts and relationships grow, change, fade, and eventually die.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

-Ecclesiastes

Despite knowing about the transience of life, we still try to base our happiness on making the impermanent, permanent.  We experience profound sadness by trying to control things and hoping they won’t change.  We can’t control the fact that all things will eventually fade from existence.  What we can change, is our liaison with impermanence.  We can alter our connection to the world including our possessions, family, and friends.

By instilling mindfulness and caring in our attitudes, we can alter how we value things. We have to remain in the here and now, and cherish each and every moment, knowing the acute fragility of life.  If one is conscious of the fleetingness of life, nothing is taken for granted.  If you know that life is short, you cherish life to the max, and the world has a different outlook.  Colors become more vivid, scents and aromas are enhanced, experiences are cherished into a secure bank of memories, and you can totally accept gratitude into your heart.  If you think of impermanence as a sand castle, it becomes intensely clear that you must cherish its beauty in the here and now, knowing that in the next wave, it will be swept back into the sea.

Peter and I were big believers in carpe diem.  We seized each day and cherished each moment, understanding the ephemerality of life.  We were keenly aware of our true delight when we spent time with the grandkids; we reveled in the joy that was instilled in our hearts by doing our philanthropic work; we relished each and every delicious dish we ate; we treasured even just sitting together and watching television, although Peter had to endure more episodes of Masterpiece Theatre than was in his nature.

When Peter died, I lost my powers to be grateful.  The catastrophic loss I experienced, shook my powers of positivity and tossed me into acute grief.  Grief settled uncomfortably into my heart, and I became stuck in a way I had never experienced. But thinking that grief was impermanent, helped me to change my attitude.  It gave me the will to fight my way back methodically, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and month by month, until I could ultimately conceptualize that my life was not destroyed by my loss.  Ever so slowly I came to realize that life was fleeting, and I had to cherish the memories of our life together, and be grateful for the happiness we shared.  Little by little, I came to find pleasure again in my life, being mindful of the good things that I could savor. I had to accept that I was radically changed as a human being.  I even found a hint of promise and excitement in the possibilities that life might hold for me.

And speaking of savoring, I would like to share a memory of one of Peter’s favorite foods at Thanksgiving, Sweet Potato Soufflé.  Soufflés definitely qualify as impermanent as they deflate in a second. This particular sweet potato soufflé recipe does not have the attributes of a typical soufflé but does have the satisfying fluffiness.  Peter adored this comfort food dish and wasn’t even aware that I lightened all the ingredients!

LIGHT SWEET POTATO SOUFFLÉ

Serves: 10‑12

You can reduce both the fat and the calories in any holiday or festive dinner with this lightened version of a traditional sweet potato pudding.  Cream has been set aside in favor of 1% milk, and both the butter and the amounts of sugar have been greatly reduced. The result is amazingly smooth, delicious, and qualifies as serious comfort food.  Do not use a food processor or blender which will cause the potato consistency to be gluey or pasty.

5 ½      pounds large sweet potatoes or yams

2          tablespoons unsalted butter

¾         cup 1% milk, warmed

3          eggs, at room temperature

½         cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

2           teaspoons grated orange rind

½         teaspoon ground cinnamon

½         teaspoon grated nutmeg

salt to taste

Optional Topping: 2 cups mini marshmallows

  1. Bake, boil, or microwave the potatoes until soft.  Peel and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Coat a large 2‑quart casserole or rectangular or oval baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the cooked potatoes with the butter.  Add the warmed milk, eggs, brown sugar, orange rind, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and continue to beat until smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. For an extra‑added treat, top the casserole with mini marshmallows and return it to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just golden, watching carefully to avoid burning.
  6. Serve hot.

Do-Ahead Prep:

The sweet potatoes can be cooked, poured in the prepared casserole, covered, and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days before baking.

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