skies

It is the strangest thing to look at the shell of a person, the body without the soul, and to comprehend how someone could be here and then, not here at all. I spent some time thinking about that this last weekend, surrounded by people who were bonded only by the shell we were standing near, the shell of someone who had lived long and with infectious charm.

I’m thinking about it now as I type, the fingers of this body punching keys on a keyboard, forming words chosen by my mind, my thoughts, my sense of reason and understanding. Someday, these fingers won’t type, my body will cease to work, the breath of life will be puffed out of me but, what is inside of me—what is most me—that will never die, that will just move somewhere else. I will move somewhere else.

POM

Right now, as I’m typing, I’m sitting next to a window, feeling with my body the slight chill of the air outside that leaks through into this room. I can hear the buzzing of someone mowing grass. I can see clouds streaking the sky through the window. These days, there are signs of life all around me—green lawns, budding branches, even new babies being born. There is that paradox: all around us, death and life. Here then gone. Alive then not.

Saturday, I made this easy smoothie, part POM Wonderful and part frozen banana, and slurped it down to the bottom, drank every sweet and icy bit until I felt it go down deep and chill me, too. Sunday, the day we celebrated a life lost, was the first afternoon since Daylight Savings, that which stretches our sunshine and ushers in spring’s new life. I went out to eat with my family, where we talked about wills and estates, and my brother and I told my dad he can never die, and I ate blackened salmon and sweet potatoes and a tall glass of ice water. Death and life. Here then gone.

POM smoothie

We are always aware of death, of course. We know life on Earth is not eternal, that this world is not all there is, but sometimes at least I know I forget it. I look at the specifics of my individual corner of this life, and I get caught up in what I am doing for a living or where I am living or other things that are temporal, and I just forget what I am living for.

So anyway I am thinking these days that it is good, in the life you still have, to be reminded that you have it. And then, you can go out into the daylight, beneath the bright blue sky of clouds, to take the days before you and, truly live.




Pomegranate-Banana Smoothie
Adapted from POMWonderful.com
Makes one smoothie.

Oh and in the spirit of gratitude: Big thank you to POM Wonderful for sending me more of their delicious (and nutritious!) juice, which was used in this smoothie. I have to say, when I went to Florida in January, and I was waiting for my flight at O’Hare, the fact that I’d packed an entire lunch in my bag didn’t stop me from buying a big old bottle of POM Wonderful to take on the plane. It is good stuff.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
just under 1/2 cup milk
2 ice cubes
1/2 large banana, peeled and broken into chunks
1 Tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon honey or to taste

Directions:
In a blender, combine all the ingredients, cover and blend on high speed for 30 seconds.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Jenn Sutherland

    Blessings to you and your family, Shannalee. Be kind to yourselves, and remember the beautiful spirit of the one you lost. And I totally agree on telling your dad that he’s not allowed to leave you. ((((hugs))))

  2. celeste

    Thoughtful writing Shannalee.
    I have attended my fair share of funerals over the years.
    My first experience with someone close to me dying was a friend only 19. The oldest, my Grandmother.
    My uncle would not let her die in a hospital and so he brought her home where we took turns caring for her.
    I would do it again.
    And it does put everything in to perspective.
    Now, as I watch my parents aging I silently ponder that I will lose them sometime and I too do not even want to have to think about such things.
    My other grannie, she used to say, “getting old is for the birds”
    Thanks for sharing the thoughts & the recipe.

  3. Sues

    I love this post. Both beautiful and true. And the smoothie looks delightful. I’m sorry about your loss, but it’s so nice you can put it down in such lovely words.

  4. Lisa

    I’m so sorry to here this but i also think that a person’s soul lives on, is more than a body. You put it so well, it is strange to stand next to this shell but it’s also a little comforting to know that shell is no longer the person you knew and loved. That person lives on in its soul in everyone that remembers them.

  5. Kim

    Oh Shanna, how strange. Will and I were just talking about this Sunday night, after listening to a piece on NPR about death and dying. You have so eloquently said what I find hard to explain: the fact that we are here, living our lives, touching, feeling, seeing…and one day, we will just cease to exist. There is existing in memory, of course, but it chills me to think that one day I will no longer be aware, be conscious, be living.

    I’m not sure exactly what I believe about “after” – when my grandmother was passing, she talked a lot about “going home” and seeing her friends and loved ones that had passed. She spoke with such assuredness that I couldn’t help but believe her. I don’t know if it’s a chemical thing that suddenly releases in our brains to make our final days more bearable, or if there is some cosmic awareness that happens when a person is nearing the end of this phase of life on Earth, but either way, she seemed very at peace. I only hope that when my time comes, I am as confident as my grandmother was about where I am going.

    For now, it just freaks me out to think about it.

  6. Shannalee

    Jess, Thanks for those kind words. It makes me smile to know you feel the same way about your dad.

    Jenn, Thanks for those hugs and empathy – and for agreeing about my dad’s need to stick around forever, ha! I really love that man.

    Kendall, Always gracious. Still amazes me. Thanks.

    Ashley, Simple is the way to go, I think. Makes everything so much more enjoyable in the end.

    Celeste, Thanks for sharing those memories! Your story with your grandma sounds very much like mine, but I was 17, and it was just my immediate family (my mom’s an only child). I love the way my mom honored her mom even to the end, you know? I would do it all again, too.

    Sues, It’s so kind of you to say that. Something about writing personal things can make it all feel jumbled, so it’s really nice to know it came through.

    Tim, Hey thanks!

    Lisa, It’s true – that person’s soul is no longer in the body. Crazzy and hard to understand and beyond me honestly, but true.

    Kim, Oh I just love the way you responded here. Like I e-mailed you just now, this is a great example of your honesty and freedom of expression, rare and admirable qualities. I get what you’re saying, as I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what happens after death and if it’s possible to be sure of where we’re going (I think it is). A really good article I’ve found is “What Happens at Death” from John Piper.

  7. Niki

    The religious person in my believes that our souls live on. That they live forever in paradise with those they love the most. I But then a little wee part of me wonders, especially when the person who left wasn’t religious or doesn’t believe in heaven. I wonder, if they don’t believe, does that mean I’ll never see them again? A friend passed away this January and while he was sick for a long, long time, a few of us wondered just that. Will we ever see him again? Another friend, actually his best friend, passed away three years again yesterday and his mother posted on facebook that they were together, finally in peace, in another world. I want to believe that more than anything b/c the alternative seems so unreal and not fair.
    My heart aches for you and your family, as someone who has seen way too many loved ones pass on, it’s not something I like people to have to go through. But I truly believe we’ll see them again, shells or no shells.

  8. art and lemons

    What a beautifully written post. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Death has always been a mystery to me, and even more so recently when my family and I held the hand of a loved one before she passed. Such intimacy with fear, grief, and love reminds us, as you say, to “truly live.” Thanks for sharing.

  9. TJ

    Sorry about your loss. In the past four months, I have said goodbye to two of my first cousins. One of them was younger than me. Nothing brings home the importance of living life like burying one’s peers.

  10. Jacqui

    i’m not a horribly spiritual person, and i’m unsure about a lot of things, but i like to believe that at least part of what leaves the shell goes back into the energy around us. into the fresh cut grass, the budding trees, a newborn baby, and even the fresh chill of a delicious smoothie. i’m sorry to hear about your loss, shanna.

  11. Shannalee

    Phew, lots of really good comments on this post, especially since I’m going to guess that there are a lot of you out there who feel the same way about religion that I feel about politics: People we love and respect disagree on these issues, and who wants to upset people we love and respect? So we stick to good, safer things like smoothies and sunshine, and I enjoy those conversations, too (!), but I’ll be honest and say that there’s a big part of me that’s afraid to move past smoothies and sunshine for the very reason that I’m afraid of offending you.

    Anyone who’s been reading here any length of time knows I write about my life and share my honest thoughts, and so my faith—and the grace I’ve been given, which shows up here from time to time anyway—leaks through into posts about smoothies and sunshine, even without my trying to make it do so. :)

    It’s not because I’m trying to push you away, but the very opposite in fact. It’s risky to bring up heavy topics like God and death and what we believe about those things, but it’s also valuable, valuable in a way that crushes through shallow, easy interaction and moves to what is weighty and real. Thank you all for your gracious responses and willingness to read, even if you disagree. I appreciate it, and it makes me want to sit down with each and every one of you and talk, without fear of one of us storming out, as friends.

  12. Murdo

    This post resonated with me. When I first read the title and saw the picture, before reading the first line, I thought you were referencing the world, this ball of rain and sun and wind we live in, but you were talking more about our own shells. I don’t know if Jacqui told you or not, but we lost my Grandma, and we buried her “shell” a little over a week ago. She was deeply religious, very Catholic, a high mass was held the day of her funeral. I’m about as far from religious as you can get, but I like to think I am a very spiritual person, I just have my own set of beliefs. I figure, no one knows for sure, faith is just that, faith, so you might as well believe in what makes you happy. You sound religious, but not to the point where you won’t even discuss it without pressing a belief system upon someone else, and I like that. I often enjoy having conversations with people just like that. I’ve read much of the Bible, the Dharma, some of the Kabbalah and the Qabalah, and I’ve done my fair share of studying up on many other religions, beliefs and such, but I think the long talks, of the variety you’ve mentioned, are the best for learning and continuing to develop and understand beliefs and faith. Anyway I’m rambling now, I’m sorry for your loss, I just thought I’d say so, and leave my $.02. I hope all’s well. -M

  13. Shannalee

    Murdo, Way to get this discussion going again! :) I really appreciated your comment, both because of how well thought-out it was and because I can empathize with where you’re coming from, especially after having just lost your grandma. BTW, the way Jacqui described the funeral was really beautiful, and I think it’s awesome that you all got together to celebrate your grandma’s life and how she’d impacted so many people.

    So I love that you already enjoy having conversations about faith/belief/life and that you’ve done that, as well as some reading into what people believe. I feel like, deep down, most people want some kind of faith or truth, you know? Jacqui and I were saying that what makes us love a TV show is when it resonates with us as true, when we see them accurately show things that are real. That’s what I’ve found in the Bible, though I fumble trying to explain it. That’s what I’ve found in Christ, in a relationship with him. So I love talking about him and about what other people think about him or about what they don’t think about him… I love thinking about how his death conquered the power of death, how his life changed the world. And that carries over into all kinds of things, including thinking about what death means when it happens to someone I love. Anyyywayyy now I’M rambling. Thanks for your kind note. You guys are such a sweet couple. We’ll have to all sit down and chat sometime. I am all for that kind of learning and understanding beliefs you mentioned. I know all three of us appreciate it. :)

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