My grandmother passed away recently. Her name was Cécile. She was 86 years old. She was a proud, feisty and intelligent woman who promised herself to never end up in an old folk’s home. Just a few days before her diagnosis with acute myeloblastic leukemia and her passing, she had been gardening. She had been doing what made her happy. She lived on a farm, where she once had horses, lots of wild cats, a pond that several frogs called home and rows upon rows of blueberry bushes. The first day my grandmother moved into this farm, she knelt down and kissed the ground. I will always remember visiting her as a child and looking so much forward to picking those blue fruits. I resisted the urge to eat every blueberry I saw but instead stuck to the “one for me, one for the bucket” technique. Using this perfectly developed technique, I could still fill 3 empty tubs of ice cream with sour, perfect and plump blueberries, only to come home and realize I was entirely covered in mosquito bites. Ouchy.. I wanted to share my grandmother’s death with you for several reasons. First off, because as I stood by her side on the last day that she was lucid and as she lay in her hospital bed, she just went on and on and on about many things. I wished not talk but simply to drink in every word she was saying.
She spoke about how all the jealousy, all the fights and all the insecurities she had ever felt were not worth it in the end and had been an absolute waste of time and energy.
She spoke about how life really is all about simplicity and that that is where all the pleasure really lies. She spoke about biking out to a bridge in the woods with her beloved sister Victoire and listening to classical music as they giggled about various things. She spoke about the time she was on a cruise from Europe back to Massachusetts and won a dance competition on a boat. She won a bottle of perfume (she could still remember the name of the fragrance) for her elegance. As she spoke, I pictured these events taking place in black and white (don’t ask why) and in a 40’s – 50’s setting. I was overcome by a beautiful nostalgia with and for her. Not once did she reminisce over a prized possession or material thing she had owned. She had such a grandiose collection of memories.
She spoke about how important it is to give back to the community. She had been a schoolteacher herself and said that it had given her great satisfaction to pass on her passions to others.
She spoke about how she missed her husband Bertrand, who had died 20 some years prior in a car crash. She spoke about how she couldn’t wait for her soul to be reunited with his. “I love you Bertrand, I love you Bertrand”, she kept saying. She had been 16, and he, 24 when they had met in Church (what a pick-up spot 😉 ). He had spotted her in Church and asked her father for her hand in marriage, to which her father had failed to agree. Because he served as a marine, Bertrand left for several years, but to prove his love for and interest in my grandmother, he wrote her long and romantic love letters every week to remind her of the extent to which she was heavy on his mind. I remember finding the box of all the letters my grandmother had kept as a younger girl and being so impressed with the beautiful calligraphy and also the poetic prose and style of the letters. Gone are those days where such beautiful romantic gestures are mainstream. This touched me so. My grandmother never remarried when my grandfather died. She got a pet poodle she called Astérix but nothing could replace her life partner. As much as part of me feels it is great to move on in such a case, and how it would have been great for her to meet a handsome older gentlemen at her “Age d’or” club, a larger part of me finds it wildly romantic that she still felt that deep connection with her deceased husband on one of her last days with us.
She spoke about politics, which reassured me, as only that way could I know the woman in front of me, now so skinny, frail and sick, was my granny. She asked my father what he thought about one of the current politicians in the Quebec system, to which my Pops replied “He’s alright”. That was her cue to go ahead and bash him like I’m sure he’s never been bashed. What a firecracker she was. She was so with it. 🙂
Knowing I was a nutritionist, my grandmother turned to me and asked “Do you think if I ate as many blueberries as I could, I could heal myself from this cancer?”, which made me cry. Cry because I couldn’t do anything to help her, cry because at this point nutrition couldn’t save her, cry because I wish I’d visited her more, cry because my grandmother was such a wise and knowledgeable woman and her life had been plagued by a lot of family drama which had created distance between us. Despite the family feuds in recent years, she spoke only of how beautiful life was during her last moments with us and expressed no grudge. I beat myself inside for not being a better granddaughter. Why do so many of us come to important realizations when it’s too late? All I could do was accept my sorrow and the reality that I hadn’t been as present as I’d liked to have been and learn my lesson.
My grandmother’s death reinforced something within me that has always been there but that we all tend to so easily forget. Lives are precious. We are all going to die. Seeing my grandmother die before my very eyes was one of the hardest things I had to do. As I said goodbye to her, she looked like a child, so fragile and innocent and pure. I shook as I patted her arm and told her “goodbye” and that I would always love her. It was a brutally emotional reminder to me that my other loved ones will die too, so to appreciate these loved ones for all the good they bring me and ignore the minor less enjoyable aspects of them. It reminded me that I will die, and that I need to make sure I live my life fully, by filling it with simplicity, with laughter and with love, and that’s about it.
The day after she passed away was one of the sunniest days of the spring here in Montreal, and I just knew she was shining down on us all. Despite having probably lost 10 pounds via tears and crying during the whole night prior with my brother on the drive back home, the next day I felt extremely at peace. I was happy to find such resilience within myself, and happy to know that my grandmother was in a much better place.
So today’s recipe is in honour of her, and her blueberry fields (I wish I could remix Coldplay’s song “Strawberry Fields” to “Blueberry Fields” but alas that is not yet one of my talents (maybe someday 🙂 …key word is “yet” ).
Blueberry Field Muffins
- 1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup coconut water (or plain water will do juuuust fine)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line two 6 or one 12-cup muffin tin(s) with paper liners.
- In a food processor (or medium bowl if you don’t have a food processor), whisk or pulse together the coconut milk, coconut water (or water), psyllium husks, honey, coconut oil and vanilla. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Next add to the food processor (or to a large bowl), the chickpea flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk or pulse together, depending upon your equipment.
- Add the psyllium mixture (in the medium bowl) to the flour mixture (in the large bowl), and stir until well blended.
- Stir blueberries into mixture.
- Divide batter among the prepared muffin cups.
- Bake at 350°F for roughly 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out relatively clean (it’s all relative folks). Please be aware that the middles of the muffins may sink slightly.
- Cool muffins completely before digging your chompers into them.
Enjoy these comforting treats. I’m sure they would be approved by my granny.. 🙂