Lately I have spent too much time at funerals and considering the whole practice and tradition. I’ve decided that I hate them. Friend, family, co-worker… doesn’t matter. The current style of funerals seems to me, to be conducted with the intent of dragging every last bit of pain and misery from the family. I just don’t understand.
When my grandmother passed suddenly – and yes, I like “passed”…. It implies travel – to pass from one place to another… or completion – like passing a test…. and isn’t that what this life is? Anyway… Within three hours of her passing, our family was crowded into the office of the Funeral Director. Next we were choosing flowers then calling all the relatives, grocery shopping and house cleaning…. There wasn’t even time to cry until that night…. when I was up at three a.m. writing the funeral programs…. Seriously? Why?
I like the idea of going into seclusion for a day or so…. no phone calls, no planning…. I don’t need a week… just maybe 24 hours… to think and to cry. Then I could face the world again. And why are we spending days at the funeral home? Why?!
When Grandma passed, we opted for a simple, short service at the funeral home and at the grave, then we invited all the family and friends back to my house for snacks and sharing stories. Leaving the funeral home and going to a private home (or restaurant… I’ve been to one like that before too and it was nice) lightens the situation. Before long everyone was talking and telling stories. I’d set out a ton of photos, lots of snapshots and portraits. Tons of food, of course….
And the flowers! What am I supposed to do with 50 bouquets of flowers? You feel guilty when you finally throw them away….. Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture. I do. And I realize… you want to do something…. let the family know you are thinking of them…. but what? Flowers/plants are traditional…. a donation to an organization is pretty nice too (please send the donation to the organization, don’t give your check to the family and make them complete the paper work and mail it in… gee, thanks… now I have more work to do.) The most thoughtful thing that anyone sent was a bunch of muffins. Nice. They didn’t have to be refrigerated, they could be eaten for breakfast… blueberry and banana…. Thoughtful, nice, easy… simple and yet so considerate…and when they were gone, they were gone. No vase or basket that you had to DO something with.
So when my cousin’s husband passed recently I wanted to take muffins to them too. Our local funeral home delivers the flowers to the family home…. I’ve been involved with others where the family had to go back and pick up all the flowers (see? Not helpful… more work), but Vinyard’s Funeral Home really was pretty great. Having just been through the whole thing, I knew I could give the muffins to one of the directors and they would take them to the family home. I mentioned to my cousin’s daughter that I’d left muffins and to eat them and not send me a card. (Writing those cards is pretty hard… even if you are just writing “thank you for your thoughtfulness” ninety-eight times…. with every card you remember…and it’s one more thing to do when you feel like your soul has been ripped out of your nose…). Mom visited with our cousin a few weeks later and she mentioned that the muffins had been a big hit and asked for the recipe. I sent the recipe to her later with a pretty card. I used a pretty tin (someone had brought us chocolates in this pretty burgundy tin… chocolates are always good when you are sad…) to store the muffins. If you don’t have a tin, maybe a nice ziplock container…. something they don’t need to return to you. Remember? The goal is to inflict the least amount of work on the family.
I’d found this recipe from One Perfect Bite on Pinterest. I only made a few changes… I wanted muffins, not a loaf, so I used a jumbo muffin pan and I had to change the baking time… I ended up baking them about 25-30 minutes… depending on your oven, your time might vary, start checking them around the 20 minute mark.
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped walnuts, divided
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease jumbo muffin pans
2) Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas and vanilla.
3) Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl; gradually add to creamed mixture. Fold in reserved 1 cup pecans.
4) Scrape batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
5) In a small bowl, whisk glaze ingredients; drizzle over muffins. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 12 jumbo muffins