Years ago when I was a young mom living in Los Angeles, I associated crises with casseroles. It seemed as if whenever something serious happened, a group of women would circle the wagons around the woman in need of support— and magically, casseroles would appear at her door every night until the crisis passed.
For a person like me with culinary challenges, this wasn’t so simple. How many lasagnas could a family eat? What else could I possibly make that would feed a family and qualify as a casserole? I worried about having to GIVE casseroles. I never worried about having to GET them.
And then I moved to Carmel and soon I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
And I waited for the casseroles to start rolling in.
To be fair, I was living in a new community with a new husband and I was working constantly and I didn’t have time in the past school year to make any friends. Plus it was summer vacation and very few people knew me or knew I had cancer. Which are all valid reasons to explain the lack of casseroles on our doorstep . Only I didn’t want reasons. I wanted casseroles.
Ultimately the kids got hungry and instead of asking “Where are the casseroles?” I sent V out for takeout.
My family was fed—but I was malnourished. I didn’t need the casseroles. I needed people who could bring them. I needed friends.
That is where I was at the moment when both of my kids were starting new schools and I was starting chemotherapy. I didn’t know a single person at either school but I had met one woman who happened to work at Daniel’s school. I was so desperate and lonely that the first week of school, I walked into her office and told her I had breast cancer and I asked her to bring me a casserole be my friend. And that is how I became friends with Carol.
Carol’s husband happens to be a fantastic cook. But in the 14 years of our friendship we never exchanged casseroles. We did however, exchange chemo stories and scarves— when Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after me.
So it was cancer— that helped teach me about friendship. I didn’t realize how important friends were until I moved away and didn’t have them around me. My luck—and my life—changed when I was fortunate enough to find friends nearby.
I’m also lucky that when life has taken away a treasured friend, life also timed the loss when I would be surrounded by other friends— at a time of celebration. Now, 15 years after feeling so alone in my new community, I’ve been blessed to have friends here who are a source of strength and support in my ongoing survival.
In all honesty, I don’t know how I happened to get so lucky —most people don’t have the great fortune to find such friends —-or the capacity to be one. Though they never seek recognition for what they do, you know them for who they are—-those rare people who truly care…..who make you better and want the best for you….who make you happier just to be around them….who want to do things for you and don’t ask or want anything in return. Not even a casserole.