The July Jennie Day Meal was sponsored by Patti and Arnold Lurie. Jen’s Aunt Patti and Uncle Arnie have been sponsoring the April (for Jen’s birth month) and July Jennie Day Meals for as long as we have been taking sponsorships. We thank them for continuing to remember Jen in this way.
And once again, the Jennie Day Dessert was provided by Regina Nardozzi, who this month baked and packaged Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. When we arrive at the House and begin setting up to cook, one of the first things we do is find a large bowl and fill it with Gina’s baked goods. As we are preparing the meal, residents, children, staff (and cooks), are always eyeing up the bowl. More often than not, a few “samples” will disappear from the bowl before the actual meal is served. Gina, thank you so much for continuing to provide such delicious desserts.
The meal was one Jen would have appreciated: Chicken Enchiladas served over rice. This was a new meal for us to prepare; several months ago, thinking that perhaps the Ronald McDonald House families were tired of our Italian food, we asked for different recipe suggestions that could easily be scaled up to provide 25+ meals. Jen’s Aunt, Linda Mills, responded with a recipe for Beef Enchiladas. Jen’s Dad dismissed it out of hand, citing our lack of any experience with preparing that kind of food. Jen’s Mom was more open-minded, and pushed to try it. We didn’t use Aunt Linda’s exact recipe, and we swapped the beef for chicken, but still ended up with 30 take-out containers of Mild Chicken Enchiladas over Rice, along with a couple of bottles of Hot Sauce on the side for those who like their food with more of a kick. There were also leftovers for a future meal. We were told by one of the House residents they turned out well, so this will be going into the rotation. We’d like to thank Linda for the meal suggestion, and ask that if anyone has an idea for a scalable, reasonable-to-prepare meal to feed 25+ people, please let us know.
This month we were also able to bring some snacks and supplies to the House, along with an Amazon Gift Card to help the House replenish goods that get low. We were also able to make a cash contribution to offset the guest-portion of a 30-day stay for a family who may not be able to afford it. We thank you for making it possible to keep Jen’s memory alive in this way.
On a side note, this year’s July Jennie day marks seven years since we lost our beloved Jen. Some times it seems like such a long time ago. Others, the pain is as fresh and raw as it was that terrible July 2015 day. One of our local newspapers recently ran a story called A Year of Firsts Without. It was a story detailing how families who lost children to mass school shooting events had formed support groups to help one another to deal with their grief. Many of the parents quoted in the article were offering advice to the families of the victims of two recent school shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde County, TX.
Despite it being a very well-researched and well-written story, this was a tough read. Much of the advice offered in the article is the same as we were offered seven years ago, and in turn is the same that we offer to others who find themselves in the same tragic scenario. It even contained a quote that someone offered us immediately after Jen passed away, that we were now members of “a club that nobody wants to join”. The similarity is a stark reminder of one simple truth: Loss is Loss. The circumstances differ, but the end result is the same. A loved one, a child, should still be with us, and they are not. In our case, we watched our beautiful girl, full of energy and spirit, slowly diminish before our eyes over the course of 20 months, and all the while we clung to the belief that she would recover up until the last two days. And as horrific as that experience was, how does it compare to a small child getting on the school bus in the morning, but not coming home in the afternoon? Or a teenager who takes the car to pick up groceries for Mom, or to go out with friends, and doesn’t return? The answer is simple: no one can make that comparison. A common refrain we hear is “I cannot imagine how you deal with your loss” – in turn, we cannot fathom how families deal with their children being literally ripped away, with no warning, no notice, no time to prepare. Maybe they in turn wonder how a family can watch their child slowly slip away, feeling helpless.
Again, Loss is Loss. Please take a moment to keep these families, and all families who have lost loved ones, in your thoughts as they navigate a journey none of them wanted to take. Allow them space to grieve if they need it, offer help if they ask for it, and be available to listen if they want to talk. Don’t shun them because you don’t know what to say, or because you don’t know how to “deal with it”. The reality is, they don’t know how to deal with it either. A little compassion, a few kind words, a simple, sincere offer of sympathy go a long way. Thank you.