In the winter, you offered hot cups of mountain tea as we sat and talked on the couch, and silverbeet from the garden to take home. In the spring, you brought cake, and a few zuchinnis to go. In the summer, it was baklava, and cool drinks, and tomatoes. Most recently, a jar of homemade green olives and a pomegranate from your autumn garden.
All this, as I sat with your daughter, my dear friend, Katerina. Many times she lay on the couch, too tired or nauseated to sit up. Sometimes you sat with us, but mostly you sat in the other room, to give us space. Always, you gave me a little something from your garden to take home with me.
Recently, at the hospital, when the doctors told us her body was shutting down, we couldn’t eat at first – how can one think of food at times like this? But the body doesn’t let you lament for too long. Soon, we bought in all manner of comfort food to place on the table in the hospital common room: loaves of bread, chocolate; biscuits; cheese. And a pomegranate, which your son pulled apart and offered around to everyone. The food sustained us as the hours turned into days.
In the days after Katerina died, we came in a dark-clad parade to your home, bearing biscuits, spirits, jars of coffee. We drank the granular Greek brew as we talked, cried, smiled at the little things we remembered. A friend bought vats of bean stew and rice–more comfort food to warm our bellies.
And after the funeral, family and friends carried in trays of fried eggplant and spinach pies, okra and zucchinis, fish and calamari, baked vegetables and salads for the wake. There was enough food, and more besides, to feed the many hundreds that arrived that day to honour her memory. She would have delighted in the feast, basked in the attention for sure.
Now, a week later, your half-empty jar of olives is still on the kitchen window. Katerina’s photo is on the mantle piece. I feel a little lost, not quite sure what to do with myself in the void.
When things have settled, I vow to come back to your place, bringing with me a few bottles of the new season’s passatta, perhaps some homemade pesto–an insubstantial, trivial offering in the face of your grief I know, but all I can think to do. Katerina won't be on the couch. We'll probably go out to the garden and talk about what you've planted. And I'm willing to bet you'll pick something for me to take home.
Katerina Tzikas, daughter, sister, aunty, godmother, niece, cousin, friend, passed away on the 17th March, 2012. She was a very special woman, as are her beautiful family. Our thoughts are with you all.