When I grieve, I bake bread.
I wasn’t raised in a family that loved baking; the recipes I know, I learned from articles I found online. As such, I’m not really sure when I figured out the therapeutic role of making and kneading dough. But the last few years have put me through some hard stuff, and through the grief and anger, I baked. Challah, sourdough, star anise bread, you name it. I baked in my parents’ kitchen in 90-degree heat; baked in the dorms after thoroughly disinfecting every possible surface; baked in my new home as I figured out how to start the next chapter of my life.
It may sound dramatic, but in times where I felt adrift, baking bread gave me a sense of purpose for just a few hours. I may not know how to fix my problems, but I can mix wheat and milk and sugar to make something wonderful.
I can’t tell you how many breads I baked in the last week of August. Five? Eight? There were so many that we had to start storing them in cupboards and throwing them away. And still, I kept baking, because the process of kneading and punching and letting the dough to rise kept my mind on something other than loss.
Towards the end of August, my godmother Kristen passed away at the age of 51. In the days and weeks since, I’ve wrestled with waves of sadness that crash over me seemingly at random. Sometimes it feels so impossible that she’s gone that I think it must all be some sort of misunderstanding. And then I try to talk about a memory, or I find tea she bought me, and I fall apart all over again, as though the news is breaking for the first time. Last week, Ken had to hold me up outside the grocery store because I couldn’t stop crying. Tonight, I saw someone wearing a sweater that reminded me of Kristen’s, and I struggled to hold back tears.
I have nothing new to share; no wise words on grief that haven’t been said a hundred times, in words more beautiful than mine. But Kristen loved these words, and she loved this blog. Towards the end of her life, I found out that she used to email the posts in which I mentioned her to her family. Writing now makes me feel a little bit closer to her, despite the endlessness of the void between us. And so, when I want to focus on something other than the grief, I bake; and when I am willing to let the grief in, I write.
It hurts to write about her. A lot of things hurt right now. But I know that they also heal, and so I keep doing them. She would have wanted the world to keep turning, even if I wish it would have stopped for her. She would have wanted me to keep moving forward, even as I keep looking back. So the world turns, and I walk on, and I carry the memories with me as I do.