By Michelle Smith
When we hear of a death in our family or community we feel a powerful urge to offer comfort—and so, we bring food. In almost any culture bringing food to the family is one of our most universal gestures of support.
While it may be quicker to pick up something already prepared at the grocery store deli, this is an opportunity to value this moment and to appreciate deeply the gift we are for each other.
So when you wish to offer comfort through the gift of food do consider clearing a bit of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual space to give your attention and intention to the meaning behind the gesture.
Your preparations needn’t be complex. First, gather your ingredients, cooking equipment, a candle, perhaps some ceremonial sage or incense. Arrange them on the counter and take a moment to feel grateful for all of the people and all the elements of the earth that came together to bring you to this moment.
Pause for a few breaths to ground yourself and become present. Feel your feet on the floor. Bring your attention to the center of your forehead. Place your hands on your heart. Call to mind the family or person for whom you are about to prepare this gift of food. Let compassion expand your breath.
Light the candle.
Here are some suggested words you can say silently or aloud.
Spirit of Life, who alone knows the timing of birth and death,
today I learned of the death of _______ and I feel sad for his/her family
(express your own authentic feelings here).
I know that we must all make this same transition and yet
the news carries with it the shadow of fear.
It reminds me that I too must die someday.
So as I offer a prayer of comfort for the people who loved ________,
who lost the one most dear to them,
I pray also for myself and those who may
one day have to carry on a while without me.
I come now to prepare this simple dish as a symbol
Of the comfort I hope to bring my friends
And as a Call to Life from my heart.
As you begin to prepare your dish—washing, chopping, mixing—you might say something like:
Spirit (Goddess, Dear Lord, or you need not address the Divine at all if that is not authentic for you), my friend feels lost in the sorrow of separation from the one she loves. May s/he have peace of mind, freedom from worry, anxiety or fear.
Placing your hands around or over the cooking bowl, name the feelings you hope they will be able to experience at this time: “May my friend have courage to embrace the sad mystery. May she have comfort. May laughter return once more to her heart ".
As you put the finishing touches on the dish, call to mind your wishes for health and strength in your bereaved friend’s physical body: “May this food provide nourishment and stamina for the journey ahead.”
Acknowledging that change is constant can, in its own way, be a source of comfort, peace, and even joy. By expanding this simple gesture of support into a personal ritual, your gift of comfort can feel even more meaningful and bring comfort to your own heart as well.
About the author: Michelle Smith an ordained Inter-Faith Minister and Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who helps people experience deeper, more meaningful connections in their families and communities through the beauty and power of ceremony. She lives in Asheville, NC and is the founder of Asheville Celebrant. She can be reached at [email protected].