I believe baking bread and sharing with others saved my life. I don’t mean the process of making and baking actually pulled me out of a burning house and waited until the fire trucks arrived… No I mean when I was at the deepest of my depression it gave me a reason to stay focused and live my life sharing with others. While many people drink to excess to deal with the trials of life, I imbibed in another yeasty fermentation.
Four years ago my son Keaton died shortly after he was born. One year later, almost to the hour, my daughter Halle shared the same fate as her brother. They had been diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) a few months before they were born. It was one of the most amazing days of my life to watch my children be born, but made bittersweet by the finality of watching them die in their mother’s arms. The pain such a tragic event can leave has yet to be equaled in my life. Through it all my wife and I lost more than our children, we lost friends, family, and the future we talked and dreamed so often of.
How does one breathe air into the deflated shape that once resembled a happy life? It took a year and a half before I hit bottom. It was in that solace, those quiet moments of numbness, I realized I had to get up. I had to move forward. Something was pushing me, but I didn’t know what. At the time I didn’t think my abilities in the kitchen were anything special. I soon learned how wrong I was.
Bread dough is the marriage of several ingredients, left to grow and expand. Eventually the dough must be punched down or deflated, but from the limp pile of dough a shape is made and left to rise once more. The second rise is quick, about half the time. It was in that second rise I learned bread takes its best shape and form.
Since I started making bread and sharing it with others, I have gained more than simple thank you’s. I love the feeling I get when I see a person’s face light up when they see you walk toward them toting a loaf or two of homemade sweet potato pecan bread or a loaf of honey oat sourdough made from your starter. And let’s not forget the stories. My personal favorite is the one I heard after sharing a loaf of my walnut and date banana bread before Thanksgiving. I later found out how lucky the recipient was to have such a sweet old lady to bake such wonderful bread for him.
Not a day goes by that I don’t take a moment to reflect on my children and what they gave me. I keep a little place in my heart for the pain of their loss, but I have learned to fill the rest with the joy that comes from sharing a piece of my life with others.