• Carly Rae

Shepherd's Pie

By Carly Rae

When my friend's father died recently, and I wanted to help. I wanted to do something caring and wonderfully compassionate, but I didn't know what to do. It took me days to get my act together. It was too long and I felt terribly guilty, but I always struggle during these situations.

I wanted to call my mother and ask for her advice, but I was the mother now. I should just know what to do. I thought, what would my mother do? This question took me back again to a time when I was 16 and my friend's father had passed away at the young age of 43. My 18-year-old friend, Tom and his 16-year-old brother were beside themselves with grief over the loss of their dad.

When I explained what happened to my mum, she made me a Shepherd's Pie and ordered me to deliver it to the family home immediately. I remember the conversation we had in her old, country kitchen at 232 Caithness Street,

"Mum, I don't want to go! What will I say to Tom? His dad has just died so young?"

Mum, replied in her usual no-nonsense tone.

"Just go. Show your friends that you care. Now, take some food with you because it is always easier when you have something to hold when you arrive at the door. Plus, the last thing his mother needs to worry about at a time like this, is cooking for those boys."

"But…but… what do I say?!" I stuttered, young and unsure of myself.

"When you get there, you'll know what to do." She reassured me.

Then she basically pushed me out the door into four feet of snow with a hot casserole dish and it was one of the best things my mother ever did for me.

I parked in front of Tom’s house and sat nervously in my old, blue, rusty Cutlass Supreme car procrastinating. I was there for so long that the ice had melted off the windscreen due to the car heater that was toasting me inside. I pondered over what I would say to Tom. Something profound and comforting? Or maybe I would take another approach and say something sweet and funny. I imagined him responding to my words. I rehearsed the lines in my head for a good fifteen minutes, but it seemed all too hard. I contemplated driving off, until I saw the front porch light switch on. My old, beast of a car would have been spotted for sure! I had no choice now but to face my fears.

As I walked up to the house my body was shaking. Not only due to the minus 20 degree temperature, but also from fear of the unexpected. I was so anxious, anticipating a room of crying people, wearing black, and mourning over old photos of the deceased man.

I took a deep breath and hesitantly knocked on Tom’s door.

He answered my knock immediately, my hand still in knocking motion in the air. As he did, the warmth from inside the house poured out into the cold, barren, Canadian street.

Tom’s smile instantly thawing away my anxiety. I actually didn’t have to say anything because he immediately gave me a big hug and invited me in. As it turned out I wasn't the only friend that had come to pay my respects. All our friends were already there laughing, chatting, playing pool in the basement and just ‘hanging out’. It wasn’t sad or awkward at all. It was just like it always was in our circle of friends.

When I eventually left, Tom stated in a very heartfelt way,

“I really appreciate you just being here with me.”

Wow, I didn’t need to say anything inspirational at all.

Feeling relieved, I slide back into my car I noticed that I had forgotten the bloody casserole and it was frozen solid!

Now, here I am almost 25 years later, driving over to my friend’s house on this rainy, cool night just like I did when I went over to Tom’s place so long ago. Although there are a few clear differences. I am a mother of three now. I drive a better car now and I live in Australia. I have experienced loss many more times. This time I cooked the Shepherd’s Pie and I don’t forget it in the car. The old memory reminds me that it is the gesture that counts the most.

But when I walk up to my friend’s door, I still feel like that 16-year-old girl delivering my mum’s casserole.

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