Today, in addition to giving you a new recipe, I’m going to use this space to reflect on loss and grief – the feeling that you’ve been punched in the gut and are now gasping for air; that you’ve just jumped into a pool that was much deeper than you thought and are now struggling to reach the surface.
I’m sure you know this feeling, as loss is a part of the human experience – one we all share.
This week, I lost (why do we use this word anyway – he’s not missing) a dear friend of mine.
It wasn’t unexpected. He was getting old, losing drastic amounts of weight and slowly wasting away. We knew that winter would be too difficult for him, and so the near-impossible decision to have him put down was made.
This dear friend of mine was a horse named Okie.
In sixth grade, when I was only eleven years old, I started riding him. He was a near-constant companion throughout middle and high school. Nearly every weekend I would be at the barn, cleaning stalls and feeding other horses just so I could be around him (and pay for his board).
When I moved away and went to college out-of-state, Okie was one of the first “people” I would visit whenever I returned home. Even after months of separation, he would prick up his ears and amble over as soon as I called his name from the gate. He didn’t care how long it had been since I last visited. Time and distance didn’t change our relationship one bit.
And now he’s gone.
If you’ve never had your life touched by an animal, you may not understand how I can feel so much heartache over “just a horse.” And that’s fine – not everyone feels that connection with animals, or has had many animal in their lives.
But Okie was more than a pet; he was a friend. He impacted my life just as much as many of my human friends (and he was in my life for longer than most of them). He taught me so much about patience, communication, and love. Becoming close friends with someone from the same species is hard enough; imagine the connection we must have had for me to become friends with someone from a completely different species.
I will miss everything about him, from the deep sigh he would give when I brushed his head to his more annoying habits, like trying to open all of the food bins in the aisle. I am sad – so sad that “sad” doesn’t even cover it. Life will go on, and I will continue my daily routine, going to work and functioning like an adult.
But my grief will linger, alongside all of the other grief that I’ve felt over the years. The grief may reduce in size as time goes on, but it, and Okie, will always be deep in my heart (or that unidentifiable non-place where emotions exist).
So here’s to my dear friend, Okie. Thank you for all of the joy you brought into my life and for introducing me to my second family (you know who you are).
The recipe I have today is one that Okie would have liked (as it has his favorite fruit, apples, and oats). This apple almond baked oatmeal is perfect to whip up on those chilly weekend mornings, and to enjoy the rest of the week for breakfast.
The apples are combined with some of my favorite spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. The oats, almond butter, almonds, and pumpkin seeds make this a very filling breakfast that will sustain you through lunch. I eat breakfast at work, and I’m usually extremely hungry by the time I get to the office, so I need something filling and quick.
When you eat this on the days after you make it, I would recommend stirring in some almond milk (or even water) and then heating it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds, until hot. Add more liquid as necessary for the consistency you want.
If you don’t have almond butter on-hand, you’re free to substitute with peanut butter, sunflower butter, whatever you have available. You can also switch out the nuts and seeds based on what’s in your pantry.
Cozy up this Sunday morning with this apple almond baked oatmeal. Share it with those who are important in your life – whether human or not.