saying goodbyes, and a recipe: peach cobbler bars

The story I’m sharing probably has nothing to do with the recipe at the end, the peach cobbler bars – or maybe it does, a little. So, if you’re just here for the food (and I don’t blame you), feel free to scroll to the bottom for the recipe. However, if you’re here for the words, thank you.

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peach cobbler bars | the merry gourmet

I had my own bedroom when I was a kid. I never had to share with my little brother, which was good, because mostly, back then, he drove me crazy. My bedroom was at the back of the house, far away from my parents’ room, and at night, every night, my mother would put me to bed. After turning the lights off, she would stand in the open doorway, her body a dark silhouette surrounded by the glow of light from the bathroom across the hall. Each night, she wished me goodnight, and then she slowly pulled the door part way closed, but not all the way. I liked having the light streaming in.  It helped me feel less alone at night. The light made the goodnights – the goodbyes – easier.

In my bed, I made sure that every inch of me was covered by my blankets, despite the warm, muggy air that filled our house. The window next to my bed was open partway but only a stirring of air seeped inside, barely stirring the sheer, once-white curtain. Crickets chirped in the dark outside, filling the silence with their songs. Our old Florida cracker-style house had no air conditioning back then – and my parents wouldn’t have it installed until I moved away to college – so we relied on open windows and rotating fans to keep cool. Or perhaps just a little less hot.

Along with the blankets, I piled my assortment of stuffed animals, at least twenty of them, on and around my pillow, arranged in a fan around my head and tucked under each arm. I wanted them close, where I could grab them quickly in case of an emergency.

For a period of time, I was afraid of fire, irrationally afraid, and I was convinced that our old house would go up in a blaze one night while we slept. I worried that my parents would die in the fire, and that I would end up alone, with no mother or father. Each night, for many nights, I lay in bed, nightshirt damp with sweat from the trapped heat of the blankets, staring into the dark at the low ceiling above me, with my heart pounding and my chest tight with fear.

I developed a plan, though, and that plan involved climbing out my open bedroom window and taking my stuffed animals with me. If I saved them from the fire, I wouldn’t be alone – we would have each other, my animals and me. I had these thoughts for nights on end, and each night, I surrounded myself with the stuffed animals, each within grabbing distance, and I anticipated the fire that never came.

I know now that I was simply afraid of being left behind, of having to say goodbye to people I loved – or of not even getting a chance to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye remains difficult for me. When I leave my family to travel for work, I get that racing heart feeling, that “What if something happens while I’m gone?” feeling.  When my husband travels without me – a rare occurrence, but it happens – I often feel my chest tightening in the days leading up to his trip, the anxiety mounting slowly but reliably as I struggle to push it away.

And so it is ironic that I’ve chosen a profession in which saying goodbyes are part of the territory. A majority of the territory, in fact.

I said my goodbyes to a patient this week. I’ve known her, cared for her, for the last several years. I’ve treated her with chemotherapy, and I’ve held her hand and comforted her when chemotherapy stopped working. I’ve learned about her life before cancer, her children and her grandchildren, her unwavering faith. She had a major setback about a month ago, while in another state, and she stubbornly refused to make decisions until she spoke with me. I smiled when I learned she did this; it is so very like her to be stubborn to the end. And this setback, this one, tragically, is a big one. The final one. The one that can’t be surmounted.

So I held hands with her and listened as she told me that she was ready to go. That she had made peace with God and that she wasn’t fearful. She thought I would be disappointed in her, and that she had let me down. This was her biggest fear. She wasn’t afraid of death. She was afraid she had let me down. I squeezed her hand even tighter, not wanting to let go. Not wanting to say goodbye.

I’ve learned over the years that while goodbyes are painful, they can also be beautiful. Goodbyes are a critical part of life, and they can be – should be – a vital part of death.

And being able to say goodbye? Having the chance to say it? Why, it’s the most important thing of all.

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 And so this has nothing to do with this recipe except that we’re saying goodbye to our peaches as summer wraps up. I also wanted you to have a recipe, since it’s been so long. Too long, really.

peach cobbler bars | the merry gourmet

Peach Cobbler Bars

I adapted this recipe from a Southern Living recipe. I'm one of those people whose favorite part of a cobbler is the crust, so this recipe suits me just fine. Heavy on crust, with peaches taking a backseat (well, maybe the passenger seat), this is an easy way to serve cobbler on the run.

Ingredients:

16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (220 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-1/4 cups (406 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches
1-1/2 tablespoons bourbon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Beat the butter, light brown sugar, and 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) on medium speed until creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together baking powder, salt, and 3 cups (375 grams) flour. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Spread 3/4 of the batter in the pan.

Stir together the remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar and 1/4 cup (31 grams) flour in a medium bowl. Whisk in cinnamon. Add peaches and bourbon and toss together to combine. Spoon peaches over batter evenly. Dollop the remaining batter over the peaches. Bake for 1 hour, until golden and bubbly. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

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30 Responses to “saying goodbyes, and a recipe: peach cobbler bars”

  1. 1
    Macaroni Mama — August 23, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    Oh, my God. What a beautifully written post. Now I want to eat the peach dessert. God has raised you, not me or your father. Your compassion, your anguish at such an early age… Girly, I love you.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Oh, Mom. I love you, too.

  2. 2
    Kedra Mello — August 24, 2013 @ 5:36 am

    What a beautiful story. Your love and compassion for people is wonderful. Good bye’s are hard but don’t you feel so fortunate to have made such a big difference in someone’s life and they love you for it. Keep up the wonderful work.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Thank you, Kedra.

  3. 3
    Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks — August 24, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    As always, such beautiful writing. I will bake these peach cobbler bars this weekend. Can’t wait :)

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Carlinne.

  4. 4

    Merry Jennifer, what a beautiful post. It’s clear that you are in your profession because you’re meant to be there. It must be amazing to watch you work. Your beautiful heart must be such a balm in painful moments, I’m sure of it. You’ve been through so many goodbyes this year. It speaks volumes that you’re able to find the beauty in the sorrow.

    It took me a while to realize why goodbyes hurt so much for me, especially with my grandparents. And then I realized it was because they loved me SO well, that my pain was equal to their love. There was something very balancing about that realization – I accepted the pain then, because it was a way to say thank you for loving me so well. And then it was easier to move on, and simply relish each memory.

    I hope that each day brings a little less pain, and a little more love to embrace.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Thank you so much, Amber. And I think you’re right about the level of hurt equaling the level of love.

  5. 5
    Jennifer Annan House — August 24, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    Merry, such a beautiful post. Thank you for writing it. I’m sure each of us will reflect on what you’re written. And some of us will make the peach cobbler bars. :)

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jennifer!

  6. 6
    Paula — August 24, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Each of us has many gifts but not all of us use them for the betterment of others. Your writing and your chosen profession, just to name two have been a source of grace for more people than you can ever imagine.
    Final goodbyes are so important and when we come to terms with knowing it will take place we understand it is the acceptance that will light the passage with peace for our loved ones.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Paula, thank you for that. (I always love your comments, you know.)

  7. 7
    Heather — August 24, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

    While I might have stumbled upon your blog a few years ago because of the food (and I do love the recipes you post), I continue to come back for your beautifully written post–this one being no exception.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Oh, I’m SO glad to hear that, Heather. Thank you for reading!

  8. 8
    jacquie — August 24, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    a beautiful and poignant post. Thank you.

  9. 9
    Lynda - TasteFood — August 24, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

    Beautiful and thank you.

  10. 10
    cherie — August 24, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    I am so grateful there are people like you in the world

  11. 11
    Eileen — August 24, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

    You are not the only one who feared fire as a child. My fear started after watching a small airstream camper burn up when I was about 4 years old. At the time we lived in a single wide trailer and I associated it with the camper. From there after, I worried in the same ways that you did about fire and loss. Yes, even making contingency plans – just in case.

    It wasn’t until my mom was dying of cancer that I finally realized that it would be very selfish of me not to give her permission to pass on to the next phase in her life; death.

    I came to understand that there are worse things in life than dying. Suffering from an incurable illness being one of them.

    BTW – I made a peach cobbler recipe this summer from Southern Living too. I did a little (to much) modifying of the recipe and I should have left well enough alone because I needed a chain saw to cut it!

  12. 12
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — August 25, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    Merry-Jennifer, your writing always moves me and this post is certainly no exception. What a blessing you must be in the lives of your patients. That kind of caring and compassion is rare indeed.

  13. 13
    Kathryn — August 25, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    So beautiful. You truly are a gem.

  14. 14
    Deb — August 25, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    I always read your tasty posts and devour them with as much gusto as your tempting recipes! This post is especially vibrant and full of life.

  15. 15
    Karen Waddell — August 25, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    I recently found your blog and thought I would enjoy the recipes, and I do, however I have received so much more. Thank you for your beautifully written posts.

  16. 16
    Kate — August 25, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    Merry – This is wonderful with or without the recipe. I’m so humbled by your ability to keep saying goodbye and to do it with grace like this. Thank you for sharing.

  17. 17
    Christina @ It's a Keeper — August 26, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

    This was such a touching story. Your compassion and caring nature are a true gift.

  18. 18
    Sharmila — August 28, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    This was such a lovely post to read, one that hit close to home for me. Very sorry to hear about your patient. It’s wonderful she had a doctor like you to understand and care for her.
    I used to do what you did with the stuffed animals, only for me they were guardians to keep at bay anything that might come my way at night. They would fight fire and monsters for me. I was also equally terrified when my dad travelled (and he travelled a lot for work), worried that the plane would crash, that he might meet some monsters, that I would never see him again. The fact that he always came back didn’t lessen my fears. But the fact that good-bye would always become hello did calm me down after a while.
    My dad has dementia now, and is here but not really. There will be no opportunity to say good bye in any comprehensive way. I wish more than anything that he’d just look at me and say hello, the way he always did when he got back. But still I will always be grateful for all those times he did come back safely. I’m trying to focus on the good times.

  19. 19
    Laura — August 28, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    Beautiful post–you always have such a way with words! And the peach cobbler bars look amazing too.

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  21. 20
    Di — August 29, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

    Hauntingly sweet, genuine, touching, and worth the wait. As always thank you for sharing so much of yourself here with us.

  22. 21
    Teresa Blackburn — September 1, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    I am so happy to have found your blog. The story you have written is so wonderful and sad at the same time. Bittersweet! My blogging friend, Charles, over at The Local Forkful…another Nashville Blogger along with me…mentioned your site and I am so glad he did. I just signed up. Best, Teresa

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