Over the past few years our family has seen our mother’s mental health deteriorate. A once talkative, engaged woman, she is now quiet, timid, and often quite childlike. Visits have become somewhat difficult, especially for my children who miss the Nana they once knew, very much.

On my mom’s last visit a few days ago, my kitchen was filled with apples for applesauce making and cookies waiting to be decorated. I thought about how, growing up, food had always been so much more than just a tasty dish. Good food was really all about the process of making the food, about the interaction, about the sharing with one another. I asked my mom if she would want to decorate some cookies; she quietly replied, “Sure.”

That afternoon I watched my youngest son and my mom fill cookies with jam and melted chocolate, carefully creating our family’s favorite Christmas cookie. They weren’t the usually flawless looking cookies my family comes to expect; there were chocolate drips, clumps of jam, and mismatched tops, but somehow those cookies looked more beautiful to me then ever before.

Food and the making of it has the ability to conjure up memories, bring people together, and give people purpose. That afternoon I saw my son and mom smile as they both remembered the Nana of old.