I was talking to my cousin from California this week about traditions after loss. My Aunt died suddenly last February due to a blockage in her arteries. Reaching the first year mark of grief and loss really is only the beginning.
My cousin told me that growing up her mom made everyone an angel food cake for their birthdays. At first they were just for her, her brother and my uncle, but then the list grew to include best friends, boyfriends, college friends and eventually a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Frosted with sprinkles was the specialty.
The smell of the cake baking, the fun of seeing it on the table after coming home from school, the light and fluffy taste were all details my cousin described to me with vivid recall.
I immediately felt a connection to my aunt, because I remember as a young child always requesting an angel food cake for my birthday. Must run in the family!
This year my cousin's sister-in-law made her an angel food cake, partly for celebration and partly in memory. And the tradition won't stop here. My cousin plans to make these cakes for her kids as well.
On Saturday night, I was interviewed by Esme Murphy on WCCO radio. During the program a caller phoned in to ask how he can resolve some of the anger he has over the death of his father. He admitted that he doesn't share much about his loss.
I encouraged him to start talking about it. Talk about it until he can't talk about it anymore. And find ways to honor the role his dad played in his life.
Small traditions like lighting a candle, writing a letter to the person who has died or baking a cake can provide not only comfort but healing. Allowing ourselves to express our grief takes some of the hurt and anger and gives it a place to go. The tradition of remembering those we love opens us up to appreciate what they added to our lives…what can never be erased or forgotten.
I know for me every time I enjoy a piece of angel food cake I will feel a connection to my aunt and I will probably even have to call my cousin to talk about it.