Thursday, December 19, 2013


One of my favorite restaurants in Asheville is Tupelo Honey.  It's southern comfort food with a fresh twist.  We are talking pillowy biscuits with plenty of blackberry jam, goat cheese grits and fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pancakes, big as a plate with granola pieces and homemade maple syrup.  And my personal favorite -a gluten free cheddar and havarti grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of thick tomato soup. Are you hungry yet?

Comfort food is defined as food which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it.  It reminds us of a time when we were nourished and nurtured.  When work gets crazy, finals loom, Christmas shopping is hectic, or we get lonely, we crave comfort food that takes us back to a safe, happy time.

One of the discomforting things in my life and work is people coming and leaving. I might have a patient and family for one week or for two years.  But every week someone I've invested in is passing on.  My specific job is to help them make this transition peacefully.  I'm so thankful for coworkers who share the experiences and the losses with me and understand this painful honor.

In Spartanburg I had Nathan and Vicki, my co-chaplain residents.  Together we learned every square inch of a giant hospital.  We watched our first autopsy together, starting horrified in the doorway, but by the end right up at the table peering in to parts of the human body we had never seen before.  We become veteran trauma responders, commiserated on sleepless nights on call,  learned to be calm in emergencies and to enter into the darkness with our patients.  We spent hours in our shared office, spinning our chairs around to talk/cry/laugh/agonize.  And that year we all became chaplains.  At the end of 12 months Nathan moved to Alaska to work as a bereavement chaplain.  Vicki moved to Arizona to pastor a church there.  And I joined the Four Seasons Hospice team in Asheville.  I miss them!

Hospice work was very different than my hospital experience. I was so grateful to work with two seasoned and amazing social workers, Beth and Amanda.   They took me under their wings and I was always glad when we did joint visits. Together we learned every square mile of Buncombe county.  We knocked on doors of mansions and hovels.  We hiked up dirt roads or snow roads we couldn't drive up.  We held hands with hurting people and blinked back tears.  We listened and hugged and prayed and helped our people. For three years we were a team.  Then this summer a pregnant Amanda left for a more baby-friendly schedule.  And Beth left to be a full time hospice daughter for her Atlanta father who passed away this fall.  I miss them!

There is a people equivalent to comfort food.  Old friends and fellow travelers.  Safe, familiar, nourishing, interesting, comfortable people.  I need this in my life.  I need to be reminded that while lots of people come and go, my comfort people that are still here.

Last week I got an email from Nathan.  Really do miss you guys. I still have a picture of us residents from the Spartanburg days, on my desk. I look at it all the time and speak small prayers for you gals. I still can't say how much I learned and grew that year. So glad to know you both.  Then he said he would be in Asheville for a few days for Christmas.  Could we meet for breakfast?  Could we?!!!  

At the same time Beth and Amanda and I set a date for lunch after weeks of crazy scheduling issues.  Monday we met for lunch at Tupelo Honey.  I held Amanda's tiny baby boy and we caught up on family, work, healing, and plans for the holiday.  Over toasty grilled cheese and chunky tomato soup, we made plans to meet again in January and not wait so long to make it happen.

Wednesday morning I was back at Tupelo Honey waving to Alaskan Nathan as he walked up the sidewalk.  I had an omelet and goat cheese grits as I listened to his and Heather's adventures and shared my family stories.  It felt so good to be caught up on his life and work.  We took a selfie outside the restaurant and sent it to Vicki titled Incomplete Reunion.

To cap off my comfort people binge, on Sunday morning I pick up my parents from the airport.  My ultimate comfort people.  They are the human equivalent to mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies all put together.  And though it is a little obsessive to go to the same restaurant three times in two weeks, guess where I am taking them to eat?

1 comment:

  1. the holidays with all of its goodness. This is a great blog, too, Erin--filled with so many things I can relate to: great restaurants, comfort food, and people that fit like an old pair of gloves.:)