Faith, Strength, & Chicken Salad

This is a post by my husband Rob on his blog. Rob has a series on his blog entitled “Unsung Heroes” in which he periodically does a tribute to people that have influenced and touched his life. Rob believes that we don’t often say “thank you” enough to the people who mean the most to us, so he started this blog series to honor the “Unsung Heroes” of his life.

I had the best déjà vu recently. It was one of those moments where all my senses seemed to be reliving the past with incredible clarity and distinction.

What prompted it?

Chicken Salad.

You see, for as long as I can remember, my grandmother (my father’s mother) had our entire family over for lunch on Sunday afternoons. Mom Mom, as my sister, cousins, and I called her, always made delicious chicken salad. It was her staple dish for Sunday lunches, and we couldn’t get enough of it.

My grandmother passed away in 2007 after suffering from a brain aneurism. She was 90 years old, and she lived a life full of faith, endurance, hardship, and joy.

She married my grandfather, a minister, at a young age, and the two of them enjoyed life as a young couple while my grandfather was appointed to different churches throughout Delaware and Maryland. They loved each other, and they were very happy.

More joy arrived at the births of my father and my aunt. Their family was growing as they continued ministry as a family throughout the church conference. However, in 1953, their faith was tested. My grandfather began experiencing tremors in his hands and began to lose control of his speech. At first, it wasn’t noticeable, but soon, he couldn’t deliver a sermon from the pulpit. Physicians diagnosed him with Parkinson’s Disease.

Quickly, his condition deteriorated. The horrific disease stole his mobility, speech, and ability to feed himself. It stiffened his legs in a fetal position while tightening his hands that tremored near his face. It confined him to a bed for 38 years where he constantly had to be shifted in order to avoid bed sores. How could God do this to a man who preached His word?

That’s my question, not my grandmother’s. In fact, she never would have asked that. Her faith was amazingly strong as she cared for my grandfather for those 38 years until his passing in 1991. She fed him, bathed him, read him the Bible, and loved him. I know it was arduous, but she never showed it.

At the same time, she knew caring for him would be expensive. She still needed to provide for her children’s needs and for herself. So, she started a business.

My grandmother opened a gift shop out of her home to make the financial ends meet for her family after my grandfather became ill. She sold cards, pottery, dishes, and other decorative pieces to sustain an income. Likewise, she ordered the inventory, did the accounting, and handled all aspects of the business. In between customers, she would attend to my grandfather to ensure his needs were met.

And who could forget? On Sundays, every Sunday, she had the family over for lunch and her chicken salad.

My cousin Alycia recently discovered my grandmother’s chicken salad recipe while going through some old keepsakes. Before my grandmother passed in 2007, Alycia asked her to write down the recipe to our beloved chicken salad. Like many women of my grandmother’s generation, the recipe was stored in her mind. She had made it so many times; she didn’t need it written down.

Alycia gave the recipe to my wife Nancy who loves to cook. It meant a lot to me that Nancy would be trying my grandmother’s chicken salad recipe. Nancy never met my grandmother, but I know they would have hit it off immediately. Their mannerisms, demeanor, zest for life, and charisma are incredibly similar, and in fact, they even have the same birthday.

When Nancy made the chicken salad and I tasted it again for the first time in over 8 years, I was brought back to the dining room table at Mom Mom’s house.

While the rest of us talked, laughed, teased, and carried on, my grandmother sat at the head of the table, watching intently as her family enjoyed the weekly lunch.

“Bob, is the chicken salad too wet?” she asked my father, referring to the amount of dressing.

“Well, for my taste, yes,” my father responded in a teasing way.

Mom Mom rose from the table. “I will make another batch.”

“No, Mom, I’m just kidding. Sit down and enjoy your chicken salad.”

Yes, Mom Mom, after taking care of everyone else for so many years, you, more than anyone, deserved to enjoy your delicious chicken salad.

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