Beets Are The Color of LOVE

Beet and Citrus Salad

Monday ~ Deep purple-red juices seeped through my sandwich staining everything maroon…like the tears of my heart.

Our beloved Briana (my daughter-in-law) died in the wee morning hours, her lungs and bones ravaged by an invisible enemy ~ metastatic breast cancer. I was finishing up the beets Pam, my friend of three decades, had prepared so lovingly for Bri last week.

Bri was an enthused beets fan. Runs in her mother’s family. Her Uncle Walt relishes them, too. Bri would bring home Bull’s Blood red beets crowned with greens, golden ones, and striped heirlooms from the farmers market. But she hadn’t been able to get to the farmers market for several months. She would recruit my hubby Bill, her grocery-shopping buddy, and Pam to go for her.

Bri, confined to the small world of her memory foam padded recliner, would check with Bill every Wednesday and Saturday morning to see if he was going to the farmers market today. She would ask what fresh produce we had in the kitchen and make requests for her favorite seasonal fruits and veggies.

Still a cook at heart, though she couldn’t even stand on her own or get downstairs anymore, Bri would tell us what she was in the mood to eat when meal times circled round.

Her appetite was miniscule. It was a great gastronomic triumph if she could eat a whole cup of fruit or yogurt or rice and veggies or avocado and cottage cheese. More often it was a bite, here and there, or a nibble of this and that….and half a day later, the piece of toast or handful of peanuts might be finished.

Bri had always had a soft roundness to her body, making her a huggable, cuddly armful. But once the breast cancer returned, weight melted off at an alarming rate….more than 50 pounds in less than 8 months…until she became slender and delicate like her beautiful hands and feet.

Bri\'s beautiful hands that she loved creating with.

In the last few days of her life, Bri only wanted to eat food “made with love.” She didn’t realize this ’til I pointed it out as I sat feeding her. Friends had been making food for us at least once a week. Like Jane, who brought over a smooth, hearty, bright orange “root soup” Sunday night, after weeks of treating us to vegetable lasagna, roasted veggies, cornbread & chili, and fresh fruit from her espaliered orchard. Shawnee brought tropical treats: young coconuts with their nutritious milk, mangoes, and papayas. And Pam brought simpler fare: steamed basmati rice with lots of butter and a sprinkling of dill, roasted beets last week, and steamed beets this week.

We also had signed up with a weekly food service, Ruthy’s Real Meals, to deliver several dinner entrees for three, since Marc (Bri’s hubby), Bill and I had no energy or enthusiasm leftover for cooking, each of us drained from months of round-the-clock care giving.

But it was home-cooked foods made lovingly by friends, specifically for her, that Bri intuitively preferred eating now. We know intent infuses our thoughts, actions, affects our relationships, and, apparently, the food we cook as well.

So, as an end-of-life cooking lesson from Ms. Brizy….prepare your edible creations with LOVE, the sweetest seasoning of all. Someone may notice the difference, savoring each bite all the more.

~ Cynthe (Bri’s Mom-in-Law)

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10 thoughts on “Beets Are The Color of LOVE”

  1. Cynthe, I am so touched that you’re sharing this with us. I know how immobilizing grief can be, and the fact that you can take the time to write such a wonderful post is testament to your strength, and to the inspiration that Bri gave all of us.

    My heart goes out to you and Marc, and all of the family.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Mrs. Brownlow… Sometimes I get discouraged when the people I feed are less than enthused, but I guess I forget that to cook with love means to let go of the selfishness– the heart is all that matters. I’m sure Bri made sure that she put her heart into everything she made, and now we will too.

  3. Thanks Anita.

    Bri was ~ and continues to be ~ an inspiration. I learned so much from her in the past two years, especially during her illness and grateful, grace-filled, exit from our lives.

    Have several more articles to write about our experiences. Will be posting them on another site: since they don’t relate specifically to food. Will let FWB readers know here once the articles are done.

  4. A heartfelt and lovely post, Cynthe. Thank you for this extra glimpse into what made Bri so remarkable and beautiful. The love shared among you all is touching, sweet. Peace.

  5. Thanks Manggy & Jen for checking in, for your kind comments…and ESPECIALLY for your friendship with Bri. You meant so much to her.

    Marc’s feeling sort of numb since his initial heart-wrenching despair right after Bri died. Bill and I are dealing with our feelings as they ebb and flow, morphing from one emotion to another.

    We so wish Bri had more time, vibrant as she was. Imagine how much more Figs-With-Bri could have become, if she had more than a year to work with it! But, thank goodness, we have it at all…a great record in her own words of who Bri was, what she was passionate about! Her creativity and love of people shine through.

  6. Dear Mrs. Brownlow,

    Thank you for sharing such a touching post with us. What a wonderful family you are, and could have been for many years more if not for the unfortunate event that happened. I do wish, with all my heart, lots of strength to deal with your loss. My thought are with you at this time of grief.

  7. bri got me excited about a lot of foods and flavours – real rose extract, persimmons …. it’s along list. thanks for this lovely post, dear cynthe.

  8. I never thought a posting on Bri’s site would bring me to tears. I used to click my RSS at least once a week to see what new deliciousness Bri would have cooked up. I never thought that I would have to write a goodbye. But I do. So Bri — thank you for your wonderful spirit and beautiful smile — your holistic and organic approaches to life and food were inspiring. I don’t think I had really ever considered shopping at a farmers market or buying local as something that was important in my life. But like all great things — you brought enlightenment and awareness to me and helped me understand that there is more to life than the things in my limited domain. I feel so honored to have met you and I also know that you were surrounded by one of the best, most loving, most thoughtful, caring, smartest people that I know…Marc. I can only hope to have a relationship in my lifetime that was as fruitful as I imagine yours being. Love like that doesn’t come around very often — so to have someone in your life to share such wonderful things with is truly a blessing — and I’m sure you were both were aware of how special your relationship was. Thank you again for teaching me about food and sharing such wonderful things with me — your spirit lives on…


  9. Dear Farida, Bee, & Dave

    Realized yesterday Bri only had SIX months to pour her heart ~ wholeheartedly as she did ~ into this blog, before she was too impacted by the cancer to do much. I’m amazed at what a short time that was! And how much Bri managed to do, approaching it like a full-time profession…and in particular how many people Bri connected with and inspired with her enthusiasm.

    Thanks for letting us know that reading her blog made your lives better somehow – by expanding your food experiences, helping you think differently about what you eat or where you purchase produce & ingredients, and inspiring creativity in your cooking efforts.

    Your kind thoughts mean much to us as we adjust to life without our sweet Brizy. We don’t quite “get it”…that we won’t ever see her again in our lifetimes. Like her sweet Aunt Reyna asked Marc three evenings ago if we can “have Bri come back now, since we understand what it’s like to miss her.” A charming, amusing, but poignant comment.

  10. Carolyn M. Carnell

    Thank You for sharing this amazing site to me! I am in awe of the beauty and richness of life that has been poured into this site in such a short time. I will be a continued reader as there is much to take in!

    I send my deepest compassion to all of you!

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