I’m sure those of you who follow me through Twitter or Facebook are aware that this week is unfolding in the aftermath of something tragic. I apologize for inundating you all with messages and re-tweets about this for the past few days, but, quite honestly, I haven’t known what else to do. I had posts scheduled for this week, but every time I sat down to to write, I couldn’t. It felt so trivial to talk about pasta.
If you don’t already know Jennifer Perillo, you should. She and I met through our blogs and through Twitter. She’s a smart, endeavoring woman, always making things from scratch, and she shares her heart as openly as she shares her recipes and kitchen tips. I’ve admired her since I very first found her words. As we started getting to know each other better online, one of us would occasionally throw out a “We should meet!” or a “Seriously, we should get together!” It’s always easier to say and feel it than to make actual plans.
About two weeks ago Shauna was in town, swinging through NYC on her way to Big Summer Potluck 2. On the day she arrived in the city, she gathered a group together in Central Park for a picnic to celebrate Danny’s birthday. Chris and I were there. In the days leading up, I was so hoping Jennie would be there too. She was, with those signature sunglasses perched atop her head. We met and hugged, happily, finally. I met her two girls and was nothing less than impressed. Not only were they every bit as pretty as their mama, but these two kids are a couple of the smartest and most outgoing children I’ve ever met. They were an utter joy to talk to.
Halfway through the picnic, Jennie’s husband Mike joined us. We all said hi when he arrived and then settled back into snacking and chatting. The evening was comfortable and easy. It was so good to see everyone and to meet many people for the first time.
The picnic wound down naturally and we all said our good-byes. There were talks of “the next time you’re in town” and meeting up “sometime soon for coffee”. Next time. Sometime.
This past Sunday, Jennie posted a tweet that made my stomach drop. I didn’t assume the worst. I couldn’t. Chris and I were concerned, though. Finally, as we were settling into bed, Shauna sent me a message and let me know that Mike had died that day of a sudden heart attack. My heart wrenched for Jennie, for her girls. He was just here.
I didn’t spend much time talking to Mikey at the picnic. In hindsight, of course, I wish I had–and honestly, I just assumed we would all have more time together. I feel like I know the very best parts of him through Jennie, though: A loving husband, the kind of husband that comes along to foodblogger gatherings, that keeps date night and holds his wife’s hand even on the hottest, sticky summer days. A devoted father, the kind that dances with his girls and that helped to shape their sparkling little selves. I am so glad to have met him. I am so sorry that he’s gone.
I haven’t stopped thinking about Jennie this week. I haven’t stopped wishing that there was something that I could do. Anything. And then she posted this. (If you think you don’t have the strength to read it, imagine what it took to write it.)
Yesterday morning, at Jennie’s request, I made Mikey’s favorite peanut butter pie. With a knot in my throat, I spread the chocolate over the crust and sprinkled in the peanuts. I held back tears as I folded in the whipped cream. It’s a beautiful pie. After dinner, I cut slices for Chris and me. We sat side-by-side, paused, and took our first bite at the same time–something we do whenever we eat together. Then we said I love you and told each other how grateful we are to have one another. We say these things often. This week they’ve held more weight.
I feel devastated that someone as wonderful as Jennie had to experience something like this, and I think that everyone who knows her already or has found her in this time of grief feels the same. I think I’ve also been so torn apart by this because it is one of my very worst fears; if Chris gets sidetracked and takes two or three times longer than usual coming home, my mind races. When someone dies of disease or old age, there is at least some element of expectation. Surely you can never be fully prepared for the loss of a loved one, but when it happens in those ways, you’re not blindsided. Death is a part of life–but it’s something else when it happens like this. When it’s premature, it’s confusing and maddening and thoroughly heartbreaking. And frightening, because you couldn’t see it coming.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to feel too busy to make plans, too tired for sex, so damned right in this or that fight…. There will always be time later, until there isn’t. And that’s what we can take from this. It would be too emotionally draining to truly live every day like it could be the last, but it can be a whisper in the back of our minds when we decide what we say or do, a reminder to love bigger and better. We can all live every day, just a little, like there’s no tomorrow.
If you want to know how you can lend a hand to Jennie and her daughters during this difficult time, please visit Shauna’s post for more information. Or, do as Jennie asked and make Mikey’s favorite pie. Share it with someone you love. If you like, take a photo and send it in to Food52. They’ll be compiling everyone’s pies into a single post, a visual representation of support and love.