It’s everywhere! I have people sending me recipes for it, serving it to me in salads, soups, and stews. Bags of kale chips beckon to me at the Whole Foods checkout counter. But my favorite connection to kale is through my brother-in-law.
For those of you who don’t know one bunch of greens from another, kale is a crinkly edged cousin of swiss chard, yet meatier. As a friend told me, “If kale were a woman, she’d be a real broad.” She’s tough, I can tell you that.
Six days after my sister’s journey with cancer ended, three hundred of us celebrated her in songs, tears, and smiles. To my surprise, my brother-in-law Eduardo, his face taut with suppressed emotion, walked to the podium to speak of the love of his life. His son Ian stood beside him. Eduardo spoke of Peggy’s determination to do whatever was required in her efforts toward healing. Efforts that included eating kale (as part of a vegan diet). Eduardo choose kale as the metaphor for how Peggy would take what looked prickly, ragged, unfamiliar, and lovingly ingest it. He spoke of watching her pray over her plain steamed kale and then eat it happily, when to him it looked like a weed to be pulled from the garden. To illustrate, Ian pulled a large bunch of kale from the plastic bag at his side. Chuckles spread through the crowd. Eduardo ended by comparing himself to the kale, still a bit prickly, but softened by all he had been through and the great gift of twenty years with my beautiful sister.
Two weeks later, Eduardo was at home thinking about the organic garden that Peggy had mothered so tenderly. In her last months she was too weak, the watering system broke, and everything shriveled. Perhaps, he thought, “I should replant it as a tribute to her.” He began walking to the back of the property to assess all there was to do. As he approached, he saw a desert wasteland of raised boxes, except for one tall bushy plant that had sprouted, without water, without care.
Yes, it was head of kale, growing, flourishing, reaching up toward the light, just as my sister’s spirit did, all through her life, through the hospital stays, the surgery, the radiation, through the difficult nights and quiet final days. Bringing the best of herself, in spite of anything, everything. If that bunch of kale were a woman, she’d be my sister.
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The former “Liz Chandler” on Days of Our Lives, Gloria Loring is a singer, songwriter, actress and author. Her new memoir, titled with a quote by Albert Einstein, is Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.
www.glorialoring.com, www.facebook.com/GloriaLoring, @GloriaLoring