This post started out about pot roast. And as I was writing about browning and caramelization and braising techniques, all of the words seemed silly and insignificant given the reason I was writing about pot roast in the first place. So I decided to back up a little.
A few weeks ago my husband, children and I made the familiar drive from our home in Boise, Idaho to my hometown of Seattle, Washington. We’ve made the drive a hundred times before, but this time was different. I was going home to be with my Mom. To say goodbye to my Mom.
She fought a courageous battle with a multitude of physical trials over the past 13 years, among them being a destructively progressive case of MS and a major brain injury. She continually defied medical odds and bounced back from near-death hospital stints time and time again. So even though she had been sick for years, it was still a shock to suddenly hear that this time was different. This time she wasn’t bouncing back. This time we would bring her home, but it would be so she could finish her mortal life surrounded by her family at home.
I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences with people you love. And like me, you have felt the weight of your world crashing down around you. I hope you’ve also felt the buoying strength that can come in trying times from the love of both God and other people in your life.
My Mom passed away three days after I arrived. I won’t detail everything that happened in those three days because it was a sacred, personal experience, but I was so happy I was there. I sat at her bedside and told her I loved her. I held her hand and told her it was okay for her to go; that she fought such a good fight and we were all going to be okay. I told her I’d miss her every day of my life and I couldn’t wait to see her again one day.
You might be wondering what on earth this has to do with food and blogging and pot roast. Well the thing is, you probably know my Mom more than you realize.
Hundreds of thousands of you have read this post. My experiences with my Mom have shaped my character and played a significant role in influencing my thoughts and feelings about Motherhood.
I grew up at her side in our kitchen. She taught me that food is a way to show love and help people connect with one another. Our kitchen table was evidence of that, and so much of my life is built around that now. My Mom taught me how to cook. She never realized it, nor did she ever really get to understand what Kate and I have built here. When I was at her house after she died, I found this copy of our very first cook book. I remember my sister sending me a text about it at the time. I sent a copy home to my parents and my Mom put post-it notes on all of the recipes that looked good. So like, every page. I laughed because so many of those very recipes were ones she taught me to make! She didn’t know, and couldn’t remember. After my Mom’s passing, Kate pointed out how cool it is to think that my Mom can finally see all that we’ve worked so hard to build here and she would love it.
On the drive back home to Idaho after she passed away, my mind was flooded. We were quickly trying to pull together funeral arrangements, and I would only be home in Boise for a few days before we turned around and made the drive back home to Seattle again for her burial. The previous weeks and days had been emotionally exhausting and my heart ached. We pulled into Boise with our car full of tired children at 11:30pm on a Saturday but before heading to our home we went to the grocery store. Because I needed a chuck roast.
Boise was cool and drizzly that weekend and the following day was Sunday. In the final hours of our drive home, all I could think about was how that next day I wanted to curl up on my couch with a blanket and smell a potroast braising in the oven. Because that’s so often what was happening in my childhood home on Sunday afternoons. That scent was almost healing. There is a reason they call it comfort food; my brain went straight to it without even trying.
In the days and weeks that followed, friends overwhelmed me with love and service. People showed up with at my door with beautiful flowers. One friend made activity bags for each of my kids for the car trip. Others took my kids off my hands. And they brought food. My brother came over and noticed all of the things that had accumulated and noted sarcastically that no one brought him any food. We laughed and noted that women know how to communicate with one another. Most friends didn’t even say a word. They just knocked on my door with a smile, gave me a big hug, and handed over a plate of brownies, or a pan of lasagna, or freezer meal or loaf of bread. And I heard and felt the message that no one needed to say out loud.
Food is love.
And that’s why I love what we do here. My Mom taught me so much of what I know not just about food, but gardening, home-making, life, faith, family and so much more. And I have had the unique opportunity to share it with millions of people around the world. Millions. I marvel at that. Part of that is her legacy.
So while you may have never met my Mom, you know her through her famous Mint Brownies and Peanut Butter and Jam Bars. You’ve adopted her traditions if like me, these Cheesy twice-baked Bleu Cheese Potatoes or Overnight Sausage and Egg Casserole grace your tables on holidays. You’ve tasted a bit of her warmth and goodness if you’ve made her signature Candy Cane Cookies found in our second book, and her love shines through in countless other recipes on this site and in our books. Whether she knew it or not, she’s part of Our Best Bites. I would say the same about Kate’s Mom, who died when Kate was young. We’re lucky to be the daughters of great women, whose shining examples continue to uplift and inspire us.
For anyone out there experiencing trials and heartache of your own, know this. There is purpose in everything, even the darker days. I truly believe that. One of my favorite thoughts is by James E. Faust, and I’ve felt a renewed significance of it in these past weeks:
Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.
Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. (-Faust, The Refiner’s Fire.)
In the weeks to come, you’ll see my pot roast recipe pop up here, and now you’ll know all the heart behind it. I hope it, along with the rest of the food we share here, helps you create traditions, memories, and safe places for your own hearts to return to.
I bet your mom is so proud of you, now that she can see what you’ve been up to!! You are a gem for sharing something so personal so we can all be uplifted. You and Kate are amazing women!
What a beautiful tribute to your mom. Thank you for writing this instead of a pot roast recipe. Your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
So sorry to hear of your loss. You posted this today which would have been my mother’s birthday- but she went home to our Heavenly Father 17 years ago. I still miss her but like you I have many wonderful memories and things she taught me. And yes, cooking is one of them! I share your sorrow and your faith of a future reunion
I’m sitting here at my computer bawling my eyeballs out thinking about what you’re going through because I’ve been there! My dad died unexpectedly 4 weeks after my 29th birthday. A lot of our family was traveling in Italy at the time because we were all there for my brother’s destination wedding. We Skyped him in for my brother’s wedding and woke up the next morning and he was gone. The most horrible day of my life was getting that phone call and having to tell my mom that her husband of 30+ years was gone. I don’t know you or your mother personally, but I do know that there is light at the end of this tunnel. I promise the heart-wrenching pain eventually eases up. I found a beautiful quote by Jeffrey R. Holland a few months after my dad’s funeral that has gotten me through some ugly crying days where I didn’t even think I could get out of bed. “If the bitter cup does not pass, drink it, and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.” Thank you for the sharing your food, your talents, your good days, and even your sad ones!
I’m sitting here crying about the loss of a woman I never knew, whose recipes have filled my family with so much joy. Thank you for sharing just a glimpse of the beautiful relationship that you had with your mother.
What a lovely tribute to your mom and the good work you do here. Food is love, and it can bring families and people together like nothing else. May you be comforted as you mourn your sweet mother.
Beautiful post – so sorry for your loss ♥
Thank you and Kate for you lovely writing and sharing so much with us. I understand your pain (my dad passed away last year after years of sickness too). But one thing I remember is that God’s plan is a PLAN OF HAPPINESS. No matter what, in the end will be pure happiness and joy. (I had an identical twin that died 3 days afer we were born, it makes me immensely happy that they are together now, waiting on us. 🙂 )
So very sorry for your loss. You paid a wonderful tribute to your mother and I pray that you keep getting peace as you carry on!
Beautiful post. I’m sorry for your loss. What a tremendous blessing to be raised by such a wonderful mother and to recognize it and to continue that legacy.
What a beautiful tribute to your mom! So sorry for your loss! Her legacy lives on in you!
Beautifully written! I love Kate’s words, too. Now your mom can see your life and all the good you do in their fullness. Thanks for sharing President Faust’s words and thanks for sharing your calm, reassuring testimony. I hope that the Lord will strengthen you in the coming weeks and months, as your words have strengthened me today.
What a sweet tribute to your mother, Sara. I can’t imagine all the feelings and emotions that have been crashing around you the last few weeks (and probably longer) but your faith and strength are an inspiration to me and I know to others. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the personal side of things today – it puts life into perspective and makes me grateful for the blessings (and family) in my life even when challenges seem to be paramount. Hugs.
Such a neat post! I cried the whole way through! Thank you for sharing. 🙂
I am crying so much I can hardly read this. Hugs.
I just wanted to say that you have done such a wonderful job putting into words the love and impact that you and your mom shared.
Such a beautiful post. My eyes are filled with tears as you mourn your sweet mom. Sending virtual hugs and wishing I could bring you something to brighten your day. Thanks for sharing your time, talent, and mom with us. So happy we know families are forever and that you’ll see you mom again someday! Much love!
Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing. So sorry for your loss.
Sara, I am very sorry fro your loss. Thank you for sharing the sweet memories and the hard times with us. I will lift you both up in prayer.
I’m also in tears right now from reading your lovely post. Sending hugs to you and your family and I too know that one day you will see your sweet mother again.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I just re-read your Mother’s Day post and realized I need to read it regularly to remind myself of the holiness of the job we get to do every day. I pray that you will be comforted in your loss and feel God’s love for you and your family.
Sara, I was so deeply affected by your loving tribute to your wonderful mom. What a great legacy she left you which also help develope in you a kind and loving heart. I dry my own tears as I think about my own mother who really didn’t know how to cook well except for the wonderful Sunday roast we had after church. However, her legacy to me was the finest example of a Christ-like woman that I know; more precious than any worldly possession. I hope that peace and joy fills your soul after the rains and storms have ceased and your memories of your mother will become like a warm blanket to wrap you in her love and life.
Beautiful, beautiful words. I’ve been following your food blog religiously since 2011 when I had my first child, and MWFs are my favorite days as I start my mornings with you. I did very little cooking before having kids. Through your blog, you both have inspired me to be a better cook, a better wife, a better mother, and a better person. I have gained confidence in the kitchen through cooking your recipes, and cooking has become our family quality time. My now 4 year old son cooks with me, and my husband and I now search out more complicated, “sophisticated/adult” recipes to cook together with a bottle of wine on the weekends. We are creating family traditions and memories for my children, and I honestly credit you and Kate with that. So thank you. And thank you to both of your mothers. Food is definitely love. 🙂
Awe, thank you!
Beautiful. And my condolences for your loss. Whether someone is celebrating or mourning I automatically want to feed them, and this says so beautifully why.
Thank you for sharing and I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom. I lost my mom in June, and you’re right…the world just came crashing down. But my goal is to keep her memory alive by sharing all the wonderful traditions she brought into our family with our boys. Many blessings to you!
I am so sorry for your loss. I loved the quote you shared. I, also, lost my Dad in August so my heart really connected emotionally with your post. I am grateful for these trials because they offer clarity. Everything really does melt away that is insignificant, and you cling to what matters most. Now, it is to let that clarity change me forever. To learn and grow and become different. To savor every day with loved ones and strive to build my own legacy of love and service. I hope you continue to feel strength from loved ones and from God as you go through your days. Lots of love!
Sara – thank you for sharing. This is a wonderful reminder to me to focus on the things that matter most and that is motherhood. I hope someday my children may write similar things about me like you have about your mother. She is a shining example to all of us. May you find comfort and peace as you remember and cherish her memories.
She sounds like a wonderful woman and that you were so blessed to have her in your life. Thanks for sharing her story.
Oh, Sara. I am absolutely in tears for your loss and from your amazing, perfect words here. This post was so uplifting and testifying. Thank you.
I am a long time reader and just wanted to pass along my deepest sympathies. Your mom was so beautiful. Prayers for you and your family.