A friend of mine is going through a tough time. I’ll spare you the details — mostly because his story is not my story to tell — and partly because the point of this story is the Get Better Gift Basket I made him today.
We’ve had countless conversations about soup since we met, so I wanted to start there. (We’re weird. Don’t ask.)
Because this was kind of a last-minute emergency gift basket situation, I couldn’t make a soup that needed a long time to simmer. I decided to make clam chowder because: a) it doesn’t require a complicated broth, b) it’s awesome, and c) because we agree that our favorite bar needs it on the menu. (I used this recipe for New England Clam Chowder.)
And because no mood-lifting gift basket is complete without homemade cookies, I baked some of those too. We both love oatmeal cookies, but we disagree on the nuts and raisins of it all. (I’m pro. He’s anti.) I found a recipe on Epicurious that fit the anti bill. You can find it here.
We also have an ongoing debate about the superiority of peanut versus peanut butter M&M’s, so I threw in a bag of his favorite. (I’m team peanut butter. He’s team peanut. In case you were dying to know or whatever.)
We do agree on Modelo, however, and luckily I had a few bottles in the house, so I added a few of those as well.
He’s a contractor, so I arranged everything in an aluminum bucket I picked up at Home Depot, and I added a funny card because he has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard.
I have a messed up sense of humor. Don’t hold it against me.
I set out to cheer him up today, and in the process a curious thing happened.
As I was putting the oatmeal cookie dough balls onto the baking sheet, a wave of emotion hit me almost out of nowhere… and I realized today was January 10….
January 10, 2017.
It would have been my cousin Justin’s 30th birthday today.
Justin committed suicide when he was 25 years old.
I think somewhere in my unconscious I knew today’s significance even before I set out on my mission to cheer up another man in a dark season. Sometimes our soul knows before our mind does.
I cried while the first batch of cookies baked, and when my tears stopped flowing, I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to use the pain of my cousin’s unrealized dreams to assuage the pain of someone else’s unrealized dreams. (Honestly, I was also a little grateful for a cathartic cry that wasn’t related to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.)
I called Justin’s mother while I was en route to deliver the gift, and we had a nice conversation. Her strength, grace, and faith astound me in the face of all she has endured. Superheroes should take a lesson from her.
But before I get too maudlin, I’ll just show you the pics from the Get Better Gift Basket.
The blue ribbons don’t match.
I’m trying not to freak out about that.
I told you it was a last-minute emergency.
But it still came together pretty well — all things considered.
So, anyway, life is beautiful, messy, and unexpected, and sometimes when you’re trying to give someone else a gift, God gives you a gift of your own.
Today that gift was an unexpected opportunity to honor my cousin, and to show someone else that there is hope — even in the face of a hopeless situation.