I’ve been trying to keep my head above water lately. I think I was in denial about my sister’s death for most of the summer. I went back to Minnesota frequently to spend time with my family, and somehow I was able to convince myself that Heidi hadn’t really died. Now that fall has set in and the weather has turned, sadness has enveloped me. It’s almost as if my body was waiting for the outside world to start dying so that it could accept my sister’s death as well. I’ve always loved the melancholy of fall, but this year it has taken on a different meaning for me. Like a lot of people I know, fall was Heidi’s favorite time of year. And so, I am thinking about her a lot. It’s her birthday tomorrow; she would have been 43. I plan on getting a carrot cupcake to celebrate my beautiful big sister. Sometimes I think about years down the road, when I am that much older, and my parents are elderly. How is it possible that she won’t be there with us? Neither of us had children, so this is the end of the line for my family. I am staring down my mortality these days.
Trying to stay busy helps to keep the sadness at bay some days. And other days, it’s useless. The tears can spring up when I least expect it: seeing another blue-eyed redhead sitting across from me on the subway, hearing one of Heidi’s favorite songs playing in the grocery store, or watching a movie that has siblings in it. For a while, I was baking obsessively simply because I didn’t know what else to do. My freezer is now full of cookies, muffins, and brownies.
In reference to grief, I’ve heard people say that they were initially scared about forgetting their loved one if they attempted to move on with their life. It’s a horrible catch-22: when I am feeling the full weight of my sorrow, I feel closest to my sister, and so in a strange way the rawness feels nurturing and restorative. And on the days where I am keeping myself distracted and not thinking about the loss of my sister, I feel very disconnected from it all. In order for me to feel closer to her, I want to get back to the sadness and pain. Maybe it’s just a necessary part of grieving, a way for our brains to force us to process our emotions. Regardless, I will get through it.
In celebration of Halloween, try this recipe for Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark. If you use chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher, it’s packed with anti-oxidants and other good stuff.
Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark
20 ounces (60% or darker) chocolate chips
1 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
2 tablespoons smoked coarse sea salt
1. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler or microwave method. Remove from heat.
3. Pour chocolate into parchment-lined pan.
4.Evenly sprinkle the almonds, cocoa nibs, and sea salt over the chocolate edge to edge.
5. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the almonds down to make sure each piece has adhered to the chocolate.
6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes until firm.