Friday, December 28, 2012

Celebrating Life

December 16th marks the birth of two of the most wonderful and important men I will ever have known: my best friend, Kurt, and my grandfather, "Grampie."  And much to the heartache of everyone that ever knew them, both are no longer alive.  Most people try to use euphemisms to say that, like no longer here, no longer with us, or passed on, so I know my phrasing may sound blunt.

For those of you that know me, you will know that my beliefs about life and death and what happens to us are pretty cloudy.  I don't know what I believe, but I know what I feel.  And I can't say that Kurt and Grampie are "no longer with us," because I feel their presence all the time.  Whenever I'm upset, a song Kurt loved will come on the radio.  Or when I'm feeling like I'm not strong enough, sometimes I get a little tingle in my knees, which Grampie had so much trouble with.  I don't really know what this means, and I'm highly aware it could all be coincidence or just very much in my own head.  But I don't really care.  At the end of the day, the point of believing in anything is to have something to get you through the day.  Hanging on to the memories of two of the most influential men in my life and celebrating them does that for me.

To make the day a little less sad, I decided to bake them a birthday cake.  It was not to be morbid or a function of my own grieving process.  It was just that I wanted to remember them in a special way to celebrate their life.  And that's what birthdays are all about- celebrating the accomplishments of life.

Since it was the holidays, I made a gingerbread cake.  I think they both would have loved it.

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cake w/ Vanilla Glaze and Peppermint Candy Pieces
Recipe adapted from Kitchen Trials
Yield: 1 8" cake and a little extra (I made 2 little bundt cakes) or one 9" square cake

I could post all the pictures, but now that I'm writing about my two favorite guys, I would rather just sit and remember them instead.  I copied the recipe exactly except for the decoration, so just follow the step-by-step instructions here at Kitchen Trials.  Besides, there is an adorable little boy using the mixer in one of the photos- how can I compete with that?

Once the cake is cooled, I drizzled it with a glaze of confectioners' sugar, almond milk and vanilla.  Then I used chopped peppermint candy pieces to decorate.  Disclaimer: chopping peppermint candy is both messy and dangerous.  Nothing I smashed them with would work, so I decided to use a large, serrated knife.  It was not a smart idea, but Grampie and Kurt both lived life on the edge anyway, so I thought they'd appreciate my bravery. 

Serve the cake warm with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

I have made some pretty amazing new friends at MSPP.  I brought the cake with me to a stress-relief girls' day during finals.  My friends, Lauren and Lauren, helped me to celebrate Grampie and Kurt's birthdays, even though they had never met them, and have only known me for 4 months.  I was really touched by their offer to light the candle and sing happy birthday.

The funny part, and part of the reason I believe they're still around, is I couldn't blow out the birthday candle.  It was not a trick candle, and I blew as hard as I could at least five times.  Kurt was always teasing with me and playing jokes on me, and it just felt like he was there.  I just thought to myself, "very funny, best friend."

So here's to celebrating life.   Whether the age is 23 or 79, and whether the person is here or gone- it's never too late to celebrate the ways in which someone touched your life.  

Happy Birthday, Grampie and Kurt.  Thank you for everything you did for me then, and for everything you continue to do for me now.  I love you both more than I was ever able to express during your lifetimes.

Love and cookies always,

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