Metro-East Living

A meal can feed the stomach and uplift the soul

Never let it be said that people who live in big cities are any less caring than those in smaller communities.

I’ve been traveling to Chicago weekly since March to visit my younger sister Stacy, who is in hospice care at home. She lives downtown in a high-rise with her husband. Their two married daughters live in the city, too, each about 20 minutes away.

I haven’t had to cook when I’m there because the fridge is always stocked with meals delivered by neighbors, tennis and book club friends, and family, who often hope to visit my sister when they arrive at the building. But if that’s not possible, the caring people who work at the lobby desk call to say a package has arrived, or even bring the food up to us. I haven’t once been in the building’s elevator that someone hasn’t asked about Stacy and how our family is doing.

A sampling of what I’ve seen in the fridge the past two months includes homemade chicken noodle soup, chicken salad with croissants, my sister’s favorite Christmas cookies, brownies, chicken Parmesan, lasagna, baked spaghetti casserole, fruit salad and jambalaya with rice. And while Stacy now cannot eat any of it (she did enjoy a cookie, though), the food comes with notes, cards, poems, inspirational books and flowers that she has seen. (We’ve also amassed an amazing array of Tupperware and plastic containers!)

When I was there last week, her friend Marianne brought a beautiful green salad big enough for my brother-in-law to eat for lunch and dinner if he wanted. Packed along with it in the cooler were containers of blue cheese crumbles and homemade vinaigrette, two small warm loaves of bread and a roasted turkey breast, already sliced and ready to be added to the salad.

It’s so easy to see that feeding stomachs can also feed and uplift souls. That it is a gesture that nurtures and soothes the cook as well as those in need. As a girl, I helped my mother and grandmother prepare casseroles we would take to relatives and neighbors who needed a meal — there was little energy left to think about eating at the end of a day spent taking care of a loved one.

I’m glad to know that while the world moves on as we focus intently on caring for one person, loving gestures like this continue and remain so important. No matter what decade or century it is.

I hope I get the chance to say thank you in person. But for now, I do this.

Contact me at sboyle@bnd.com, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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