I never had any reason to pay particular attention to Italian wedding soup. I like it. It's hearty, has some pasta, some greens, when done properly has those tasty little meatballs that just pop into your mouth and burst with flavor. All in all I would say I enjoy the soup very much, regardless of whether I have ever thought about it much. My daughter Alexis loved soup. From an early age she would try different types of soups and then ask for more. It should be noted that she was a fairly picky eater. Alexis would ask for "soupa" for meals, both at home and in restaurants. Clam chowder, French onion, matzo ball, chicken noodle, tomato soup. She loved them. But then there was Italian wedding soup. Alexis grew to love those little meatballs. I always felt good about her eating soup. There was an aspect of comfort involved. Especially during some of the colder days in Washington, DC., in the winter months. It is true what they say, "soup is good food."
There is also a dark side of soup, or that which it represents. During a recent lunch outing while at work, I was standing in line waiting to pay at a sandwich shop in the District. I found myself directly in front of one of the eighteen different soups that are sold there on a daily basis. Salad in hand, I thought nothing of my physical location until I looked down to discover that I was staring straight into a steaming container of Italian wedding soup. Meatballs visible and bobbing up and down in the steaming broth, I thought of Alexis. Immediately I felt that familiar pang in my gut and throat. As most of my readers know, Alexis passed away on January 14, 2011, from an inoperable brain tumor just two weeks shy of her fifth birthday. Given just six to nine months to live following her diagnosis, she battled with a resiliency and zest for life that has shaped my every focus for the remainder of my days.
Every parent who has lost a child to disease or some other mechanism knows this pang. In most instances, as time marches beyond the day your child passed away, these moments of blunt force trauma to the soul are brought about without any warning or advanced notice. They simply happen and in that instance, you are forced to endure the reality that your child is no longer present with you. They are not always negative mind you. There are memories and experiences that touch your soul in a different manner. The ladybug crawling in the corner of your hotel room when there is simply no reason for its existence there. The group of Monarch butterflies that seemingly descends out of nowhere and flutters around your head. Finding one of your child's stickers on the floor when you move a piece of furniture. Those are moments that are "ok" on the spectrum of experiences.
Parenting other children after the loss of one of your kids can often bring about these soul crushing moments, especially if the other children are younger than the one you lost. Your ability to completely avoid situations and locations that you are patently aware will swiftly kick you in your gut becomes less and less possible. Maybe that is all part of the process. It is not so much healing, as I do not prescribe to the belief that we heal from the loss of a child. More appropriately, it is our ability to ultimately cope with our altered reality. As the period between the passing of your one child and the aging of your other child or children grows, it is a bit easier to venture upon those roads that you have avoided traveling. And whereas I find the old saying to be true, "you can never go home again," you can at least put into perspective the locations where "home" used to be.
And that takes me back to the issue of Italian wedding soup. No Italian wedding soup has passed beyond my lips since January 14, 2011. The thought of ordering it has not even crossed my mind. I suppose I miss it in some respect. I certainly do not crave it. More to the point, I miss what it stands for more than the actual food itself. I miss sharing a bowl of soup with Alexis. Talking about everything and nothing at all while cutting the little meatballs in half. I miss being able to have soup with Alexis. The comfort of the warmth emanating from the bowl and the presence of her sitting there next to me. I miss Italian wedding soup. And so, when I was standing there next to a big hot metal container of that very soup I could not help but have that trigger of loss brought to my soul. I fully believe that with time this blunt force will not be so pointed. I frankly hope it never completely goes away, as often times pain is a connecting element to a child who has passed away. It simply is another altered reality that those of us who lose children live within. Yes, soup is good food. And there is something both painful and good about Italian wedding soup. Especially those tasty little meatballs.
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