Passing Down the Recipes
As I type these words, Audrey and I are preparing to go and spend time with our newborn son for the first time together. He was born nearly 8 hours ago, but due to some breathing issues after his birth that are quite common for babies born 4 weeks early like he was, we haven’t had a chance to be with him at the same time. We can’t wait to tell him who is parents are.
We also can’t wait to tell him where his name comes from. MacKaye Benton Dickison. “Mac.”
Audrey and I have tended toward family names with Billy and Sid, and Mac is no different. MacKaye is a story for another time, but his middle name, Benton, is Audrey’s grandmother’s maiden name. Joy Benton Hendrix, “Meme,” as her grandchildren knew her, passed away just a few weeks ago after a long, hard year of declining health. Mac attended her funeral in his mother’s womb.
Meme was a special woman. Truly one of the kindest, gentlest, generous souls you will ever meet. She will be remembered for many things, but somewhere near the top will be her gifts as a baker. Meme was a skilled baker, known for specialties such as silver-dollar sized biscuits that melted in your mouth, delicious caramel cakes, and a blueberry pound cake she wisely called “coffee cake” so you could eat it for breakfast.
But along with being a skilled baker, Meme was also a prolific baker. Up until recently when her health failed her, Meme baked constantly. There was an entire freezer in her home filled with baked goods, each of them dutifully wrapped first in plastic and then tin foil, just waiting there to be given to whomever might come to visit. When Audrey and I moved to Macon, she insisted on making coffee cakes for me to deliver to each of our homebound members. Baking was the clearest—and tastiest—expression of her love. And yet it wasn’t always this way.
Baking was something she took on later in life. She never baked much until after she experienced the unspeakable tragedy of losing her son, Roy, in a car wreck when he was driving home from college. Overcome with grief, and not knowing what to do, she began to bake, and bake, and she would give these baked goods out to others. And it was this baking that would become the gift for which she was best known.
Audrey and I can’t wait to tell Mac about his great grandmother. And we hope along with his name, he’s also inherited something of her courage and grace. While we of course don’t wish him loss or pain, we also know these things are part of a full life. And so we can only hope that he, too, will come to embody the same gospel promise she did: that God’s love enters us most often through our wounds, and shines through us out into the world. That behind death there is more life.
For now we’ll be content to swaddle him in hospital blankets. But one day we’ll tell him all about those ties that bind. We’ll pass along the recipes, too.