To help heal in times of crisis, some people meditate, others do yoga. I bake pies.
I love the feeling of my bare hands in the dough, massaging the flour and butter together into a soft, crumbly texture. I love sitting with a bowl of apples on my lap, peeling each one until the skin comes off in one long curly piece. I have a sense of purpose, yet without urgency. I get lost in concentration, taking my time to create something delicious and special that will be appreciated by whomever I share it with.
I do meditate and practice yoga, but as my friend Matt once accurately observed: “Beth, you’re happiest when you’re baking a pie.” So when the unexpected death of my 43-year-old husband, Marcus, left me debilitated from grief, I turned to the thing that I hoped would help me heal. I baked pies.
My friend Kathy always says, “When you’re feeling blue, do something nice for someone else to feel better.” I was so blue after losing Marcus I didn’t even want to be alive. So I baked pies for others. A lot of pies. In fact, four months after Marcus died, I baked 50 pies in one day and spent the following one, National Pie Day, handing out slices of my homemade apple pie on the streets of Los Angeles. That translated to 400 slices, 400 happy people and a few steps forward in healing my shattered heart.
Recovering from grief is a long and slow journey. Like waiting for a pie to finish baking, it takes patience and time. I granted myself a one-year period of mourning. I baked, I went to grief counseling, I cried. I cried so much my eyes had become permanently swollen. And as the one-year anniversary of Marcus’ death approached, it was pie, again, that propelled me forward. I volunteered to be a judge at the mother of all pie events, the Iowa State Fair. I was born and raised in Iowa, and my instincts told me it was where I needed to be. It was a place I couldn’t wait to leave when I was 17, but now, 48 years old, widowed and fragile, I thought my Midwestern home state might help keep me grounded on the anniversary I was dreading.