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Life Review: Food for the Soul, Nourishment for the Body

Published by Chapster on 2005/8/20 (5867 reads)
Recorded at the KEOM 88.5 FM studios
Mesquite, Texas
Life Review: A Meal of Celebration

Dr. Griffin: So, Mike, what are we talking about today?

Mike:Recently, Barb and I were asked to speak to a group about one of our favorite subjects, life review and life review therapy. It is a fascinating subject with much potential for emotionally comforting our aging loved ones. It allows them and us to process together what their lives meant to us, and the gifts they gave to us.

Dr. Griffin: Aren't there a lot of folks who have had difficult experiences with their parents and family of origin?

Mike: Yes, there are. But, even for them, they are occasionally able to remember one or two instances where they shared a nice time with a parent. Once in awhile, we run into cases where even that is not true, and the adult child has chosen to completely withdraw from relationship with the parent or parents. For them, they have the task of creating a new story for themselves. Even then, though, I think it is a mistake to try to erase the past. Regardless of how difficult the past has been, it can be a resource for creating our future.

Dr. Griffin: So, back to the subject we were talking about, how do you use life review?

Mike: Many people consider life review just the task of doing a genealogy. And, while that's very meaningful and enlightening, I think that life review can be much more. It begins with trying to find out what makes a person, say our mom or dad, tick? What were the driving forces that made them who they are? What events in their story made them make their major life choices? When I do seminars for nursing home administrators and social workers, I often ask them how they got started in professional caregiving. It is amazing how often they report that they witnessed their parents care for a grandmother or grandfather, or that they themselves remember being a caregiver to their grandparents. In that experience, they saw a kernel of their future calling. So, part of the process is just reflection, verbally retelling the old stories, and asking questions about our loved ones life, their perceptions, and their relationships with others.

Dr. Griffin: As you are gathering these stories, I would imagine that it is helpful to write them down?

Mike: Absolutely. And keep writing down the new stories they tell. Also, write down recipes, set aside clippings from the newspaper, make note of their successes, the things of which they are most proud.

Dr. Griffin: But it goes beyond that for you, doesn't it? And, I know you have a story to tell about that...

Mike: Yes. We can integrate the stories of the past into the present. My parents are well along in their aging process. This fact is not lost on us. We are aware that each visit may be the last. Recently, Barb and I went to my home and almost all of the family was there. We had the idea that we would make the menu based upon a number of crazy events that my family had. We had any number of different food items. All of us were excitedly wandering around the kitchen sharing the stove, finding ingredients, preparing food. When the meal was served, almost each element had some family story tied to it, which my parents had to guess. I can tell you that it was and will be one of the most treasured memories we will ever have. And we will always have it because life review is more than knowledge; it's a story, twice-told.


The following was not in the broadcast. We include it to perhaps inspire you to your own meal of celebration and life review. Actually, we tried to do have food elements/story reminders at several of our meals during our trip. Maybe this will be an example of what I mean.

Tuesday Evening Menu (July 6, 2005)

Salmon - There was no particular meaning for the salmon other than we love it

Crab Cakes - an uncle used to come to our house for surprise visits, years ago. He came in the wee hours of the morning, beating on our front door and wanted to stay with us (he was a REALLY great guy, not a deadbeat). He was exhausted when he got to our house, having driven from Annapolis, MD, and forgot that he had brought some freshly caught Chesapeake Bay crabs and they were in the back of his VW. The next morning the crabs had somehow gotten out of the bushel basket they were in and were climbing all over his VW. The morning was spent retrieving them. This is the embodiment of my family's life story!

Sky Juice - As kids, an aunt who lived in New Haven, CT always made a special mix of tea, boysenberry syrup and a bunch of other ingredients, and called it Sky Tea. Just the name made us kids love it: the taste made it nearly miraculous. No one has the recipe now. I wish we did. I tried to recreate it for this meal.

Asparagus - no particular reason for this choice other than my sister makes darn good asparagus. Plus, Barb likes it!

Macaroni and Cheese - I make really good Macaroni and Cheese. We wanted something of a reminder of comfort and of the simple foods of childhood.

Shoo Fly Pie - Long years ago my family used to go to a wonderful restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania named Good and Plenty Restaurant. We went there from our home in Fairfax, Virginia and were ready to eat when we got there. I have always been intrigued by the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle, and our visits to this restaurant, still in operation today, only heightened that interest. The culmination of each meal there was the Shoo Fly Pie. My God, it was wonderful! That fine restaurant offers the recipe free on the web here:

Though not at this meal, we also gummed Saltwater Taffy throughout the trip in memory of my granddad. He made his own taffy during the Great Depression to try to make ends meet.

Licorice - all good and moral people celebrate licorice

Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda - a very peculiar soda that tastes like, uhh, the all time great basis for a soda, celery. Yes, you read right, celery. It's an acquired taste. But, my dad bought it one night real late at a deli a some beach town like Atlantic City. We got stuff for sandwiches, etc and all sat around with drinks and had a pretty nice time. Ahh! Find yourself interested in the good Dr. Brown's culinary experiments? You can find out more about the drink here ( ) and can buy it at specialty deli markets.

Folks, we hope you get the idea and that the home movies didn't bore you.

Tags: review   life   reminiscence   food   celebration   meals  

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