In Memory of Kay Kim's Blogs

We Do What We Do To Survive (excuse the last post ) The wrong one went out)


——My family copes with my sister’s murder in various degrees.

 

For example, I make my brain numb for almost a year with merlot, cabernet, pinot noir, Mary Oliver, and Jesus. I can’t walk or breathe after the execution, but I can write. This is my sanity, my death, my new universe.

 

This is my escape from the darkest dark.

 

We do whatever we do to stay alive. We must keep walking, sleeping, awakening, smearing on red lipstick, and pretend we are breathing.

 

My mother bakes cakes with buttermilk.

 

She bakes chocolate cakes with old-fashioned cocoa icing, rhubarb-strawberry cakes, vanilla cakes spilling over in powdered sugar, and pumpkin cakes covered with Philadelphia cream cheese. Nothing she creates comes from a box.

 

“Sweetheart, did you know I can bake four or five cakes from just half a gallon of buttermilk?” She says.

 

When I walk into my mother’s house on Seaver Avenue & 95th— the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar fills air like a resurrection. These scents are soothing, familiar, but at the same time, her tears. She passes slices of cake out to visitors and family on crimson china like kisses.

 

“Here, have some cake, you’ll feel better.” She says. What she doesn’t say is, “Please, eat this, and I’ll feel better.”

 

We used to open the front door after school to those same smells, that same abundant love. My stay-at-home mother is in her avocado-green kitchen baking cinnamon buns, or chocolate chip cookies, or her famous cakes with fluffy white and chocolate frostings. She is relentlessly contented, reachable, and exactly where she wants to be. It takes me several years of judgment and arrogance to realize this fulfilled, simple life was another form of feminism.

 

I have a dream that my sister walks through my mother’s kitchen door as if nothing has happened, sits down at the table and asks for a piece of cake…

 

“Where have you been,” I ask. “I’ve been looking for you.”

 

“Right here,” she says.

 

But she is gone. Gone. Three bullets. Then gone.

 

And we are desperately trying to hold on to what remains. A flower left out. An empty chair.

 

We do what we do to survive.

 

My mother bakes cakes with buttermilk. This is her mourning, her church, her daily hymn.

 

Halleluiah.   Amen.

 

This is how her hands talk and breathe, how her polished fingers grasp what is needed to measure, stir, crack eggs, and fold loss into her stainless steel bowls.

 

Nobody said life would be easy.

 

But I’m here to tell you life can still be miraculously beautiful.

 

Lemon tulips still bloom.   Spring still begins.     Poetry still rises.

 

…And my mother still bakes cakes with buttermilk.

 

Help for Domestic Abuse:

CALL the National Domestic Abuse Hotline TODAY: 1-800-799-7233


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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    April 30, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I get a lump in my throat while reading this, Kim, esp. on your dream that your sis. asked for a piece of cake…she lives forever in your dream and heart, my friend.
    So when will you share the recipe of your mother’s buttermilk cake?

  • Reply
    Elephants Child
    April 30, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Love your mother’s sweet caring prayer.
    I don’t think we ever ‘get over’ grief. We find a way to live with it. Mostly.
    Hugs and oceans of caring.

  • Reply
    Liz
    April 30, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Beautiful

  • Reply
    Minnesota Prairie Roots
    April 30, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Kim, I am in tears. This telling of your mom’s grieving overwhelms, comforts, reveals the depths of her grief. This is as powerful a piece of writing as I’ve ever read on dealing with a loss so profound. We each manage in our own ways. If it’s through cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing batter, serving slices of homemade cake, then so be it. Thank you for sharing this story.

    .

  • Reply
    Anna @ shenANNAgans
    May 1, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Would love for you to share your Momma Bears buttermilk cake recipe, bet it is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • Reply
    lisa thomson
    May 1, 2017 at 8:13 am

    This post makes me cry. I felt like I was in your mother’s kitchen with you, Kim. The scent of baking cakes came right from your words. I do hope you are combining all of these amazing writings into a book of poetry and essays. It would help so many who are suffering from grief and loss. Beautiful post! xoxo

  • Reply
    elizabeth
    May 1, 2017 at 9:12 am

    One day we will share a buttermilk cake. We will just cut it in half and stay up all night and talk. xox

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    May 1, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Painful
    Beautiful.
    I love you for sharing your journey as always Kim xoxoxo

  • Reply
    Lisa Gordon
    May 1, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    You are such an inspiration, and such a gentle spirit, Kim.
    Your mom sounds like my mom used to be. And now me.
    And by the way, I do not know of a really good cake that does not involve buttermilk! 🙂
    Sending you hugs, sweet friend.
    xo.

  • Reply
    Debbie
    May 1, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    We all deal with pain and mourning in our own ways. I LOVE how your mother deals with it — so productive, sweet, and nurturing! No wonder you’ve got such a loving heart, my dear Kim — a mother like yours is a true jewel!!

  • Reply
    Mandy
    May 1, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    <3 <3 <3

  • Reply
    marie kléber
    May 2, 2017 at 8:37 am

    This is what hits me every time I read you Kim. You survived in such beautiful ways. I wonder how you master it every day, I am in awe at the way you empower many women with your words.
    I don’t know if the grief ends one day…
    Sending love to you and your loved ones.
    xoxo

  • Reply
    Sandra Garth
    May 4, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Awwww Kim♥ Hugs to you and your mom.

  • Reply
    Monica
    May 9, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    This is possibly the most beautiful, heart-aching piece you’ve written. You must turn it into a memoir. It reads like poetry and the way you describe your mama with all her baking supplies and scents, I can almost taste the cinnamon rolls, the cakes, the cookies. I can see the butter sitting on her counter.
    These words make me want to cry: “My mother bakes cakes with buttermilk. This is her mourning, her church, her daily hymn.”

  • Reply
    ladyfi
    May 11, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    This had me in tears.

  • Reply
    Amy Tong
    May 15, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    What a beautiful post….I’m always deeply touched by your words. Yes, I’m sure the baking is part of the healing process. It’s always therapeutic for me! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristi Campbell
    May 16, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Oh. So many tears. This is beautifully written and so full of the warm imagery of home while still surviving the pain. You are amazing, my friend. I especially loved “She passes slices of cake out to visitors and family on crimson china like kisses.” xxxx

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    May 17, 2017 at 11:22 am

    This is so beautiful. I love how your mother coerces people to eat her food. I get it. It helps. Mixing, baking, DOING something with her hands helps her keep her strength and sanity… and seeing other people enjoy that food, it is her salvation during this time.

    I dunno when it gets easier. But I do know that family is everything and it sounds like you have a wonderful foundation of love and strength around you. XOXO so much of those to you, my sweet.

  • Reply
    Pamela
    May 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Beautifully expressed. Just wonderful. I love how you mention that Mary Oliver helps get through the pain, also. Good poetry is essential. As is chocolate buttermilk cake.

  • Reply
    Liz
    May 23, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I adore the way you write. So raw, so beautiful, so poignant. I love your mother….xoxo

  • Reply
    Marcia @ Menopausal Mother
    May 25, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I love this so much. I tend to eat through my grief and drink way more wine than I should. I’ve lost three family members in the past nine years, and over that time I’ve gained roughly 25 pounds. It’s a vicious bingfe-eating cycle and I’m not sure how to make it stop. Eating calms me. Writing is harder because it makes me tap into feelings I do not want to feel. Bless you, Kim. This is a beautifully written post.

  • Reply
    Jeannette Paladino
    May 26, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Heart Touching ! This had me in tears !

  • Reply
    Bella
    June 1, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Kim, this post was fantastic! Your writing invokes not only the pain that is felt by you but by your loved ones as well. The emotions are so tangible! Your words manage to activate every sense, all the way from touch to smell! I could literally smell the wonderful aromas coming from your mother’s kitchen! Something tells me that while Kate may not be there physically, she is with your mother every step, of every ingredient she adds to her baking. Looking on to see how much she is loved; how much she is missed!

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