“Not for one moment has this flowing toward me ceased.”

On my 11th almost-spring birthday, I wrote in my journal, “I made it through flu season. It’s March. I won’t get sick.”

Of course, moments later, I spiked a temperature, started sneezing and alternately froze and sweated under my corduroy coverlet.

Then my grandmother arrived unexpectedly with our favorite comfort, her tomato-rice soup. She pushed open the door with one arm and in the other carried her soul food and body blessing: a tonic of chopped tomatoes, lots of white rice, shreds of meat and a little pepper.

Often, she cooked it with a previously used T-bone or a leftover piece of chicken, a simple, water-based Depression-era nonrecipe, not as much a curative as a tangible sign of benevolence in the world.

Her mother made it, my mother made it and today my generation of women is passing it on to our sons and daughters.

When I saw Memere enter our mudroom, she balanced a cardboard box that held her cold potion in recycled glass jars.

Then she dumped her red and white chunky home-brew into a stainless steel pot on our avocado-colored range. Simmering, the soup had a savory smell that filled the kitchen.

After a few minutes, kissing my fevered forehead, she ladled her now fully heated elixir into a ceramic serving bowl and placed it under my drippy nose and swollen red eyes. As best I could with plugged sinuses, I breathed in the steam and spooned her offering to my chapped lips sip by sip.

And so I came to know, even as lonely, abandoned and miserable as I felt: We are not alone.

We are what the Buddhists call “interdependent.” Sometimes it’s grandmotherly types who help us learn this fact, and sometimes help shows up in the form of a big hot surprise.

Half a century after being 11, I grasp this truth: The way of life includes yin and yang, joy and sorrow.

If we are awake, in sickness, with loss, in depression and in our dark times, we notice that there are always healing waters for the dry spirit. If we can open beyond our disease, we spot kindness kettles boiling everywhere with soul food and body blessings.

Human caring is like March: spring-like, life-affirming, the touch of humanity omnipresent, simple and multigenerational.

Oh, that I could remember to remember the words of the mystical poet Rumi, which echo from the 13th century: “Not for one moment has this flowing toward me ceased.”

 

Susan Lebel Young of Falmouth is a mindfulness instructor and retired psychotherapist. She can be reached at:

[email protected]