Dorothy Voige was an accomplished woman. Few things made my mom happier, though, than cooking or baking for us.
Once when she was making Christmas dinner while everyone else was enjoying each other’s company, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way. A good meal was her gift to the whole family, she explained.
Years later, I learned how cooking for us fed her soul.
Mom was struggling to fight a second round of cancer. She wasn’t giving up, but the cancer was winning. She ate almost nothing, had no feeling in her fingers and toes, and her jaunty stride had dissolved into a slow, clumsy step. She needed a cane just to get around their small home.
She got a craving for scones and said she’d tell me how to make them. I got everything out as Mom inched her way to the kitchen to orchestrate the process.
I sensed her spirits lifting as she told me how much of this or that to use. When the ingredients were ready to mix, Mom put her cane on the counter and thrust both hands deep into the big cream-colored bowl, ostensibly to show me how to do it.
Her pale fingers, nearly the color of the bowl, grabbed the ingredients like a claw machine and patiently massaged them into dough. As I watched each pull and tug, color returned to her hands. For those few golden moments she was my mom again, not a cancer patient, making a delicious gift to her family.
Cleaning up the kitchen, I spotted her cane on the counter. She’d gone back to the living room on her own, and I wanted to think it was a sign of victory.
But it was not. Those scones -- the best I’d ever had -- were the last thing Mom made for me.
Less than three months later, she slipped away peacefully at home. Her suffering was over but my dad was inconsolable. He couldn’t understand why his wife of nearly 61 years was gone.
I flashed to that Christmas conversation and what I’d seen happen two months earlier while making those scones. “You know what I think?” I said to Dad. “She had to go first so the table will be set and dinner will be ready when we get to heaven.”
It took me a long time to realize that Mom’s cooking was about much more than feeding her family. Every time she stirred up something, she nourished us with a very special love.