Grief is a deeply personal experience and journey. Everyone goes through it differently. It’s not something you get over, but rather something you live with. It’s even more apparent when death comes too quickly. Phoebe Rose Doull-Hoffman was born in 2010. She had been diagnosed with mixed lineage (MLL+) infantile leukemia since she was two months old. This is an aggressive and difficult to treat and cure leukemia with a very poor prognosis – just 20% of babies with high risk disease survive five years. Phoebe passed away in November 2015 and would’ve turned 6 this week.
To honor Phoebe, and as part of the Phoebe Rose Rocks Foundation to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, Marion (Phoebe’s aunt and my close friend), her family and friends organized a dinner last weekend for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. I felt really honored to be invited to join in this activity. Not only because it’s a special thing to be included in someone’s journey through grief, but it’s also how I’ve been living with my own grief – by doing things that Muriel would find fun and for a good cause.
For prep day at the Pacific Institute for Culinary Arts (PICA), we met Marion’s husband Scot who works at PICA and was the leader of our group “Team Vancouver”. It was my first time at PICA and I was seriously impressed by the facilities and makes me want to take a class there, especially when Scott revealed the meal we would be serving. My mouth couldn’t (and still can’t) stop watering.
Here was what was on the menu:
- Home-made BBQ sauce marinated pulled pork sandwiches topped with fresh coleslaw.
- For the vegetarians, grilled summer vegetables on a bed of salad in a spinach wrap.
- Caesar-salad (I made the dressing from scratch, with help from the chef.)
- 3-bean salad in a lemon-infused vinagarette.
- 100+ hand-made chocolate cupcakes topped with icing and sprinkles.
I’d heard of the Ronald McDonald House before but never new it played such an important and critical role for families and children. For over thirty years, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon (RMH BC) has been providing accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they must travel to Vancouver for their child’s major treatment. Originally located in a 13-bedroom home in Shaughnessy, the House is now in an amazing 73-bedroom complex, including multiple kitchen facilities, lounge areas for families and children, indoor and outdoor exercise gyms, and a very cool indoor slide, on the grounds of BC Children’s Hospital.
We were so prepared that the team set up and was ready well before families trickled in for dinner. With a little bit of time to spare, we were given a tour by the friendly volunteers who showed us around and even let us try the slide. The highlight of the night was serving dinner to the families who were staying at the House. It’s a humbling experience to see that a small gesture of cooking for someone can bring relief to many of the moms, dads, siblings, and families who were there for their sons or daughters.
Grieving is different for everyone. And that there good and not-so-good milestones along the way. Doing something like this really helped me with my grief and I wouldn’t hesitate to get back in the kitchen to do it all over again!