this little light of mine

When Isabella was in pre-K she sang This Little Light of Mine at her winter recital. She would practice the song over and over again at home, and every time it would end with me in tears.  Mikey used to laugh, in a very loving, teasing way, for how freely my tears flowed at school performances because I’m generally a tough Brooklyn gal.

Tonight that song popped into my head while I was cleaning the dinner dishes. The line “no one’s gonna blow it out” hit a particular chord every time Isabella used to sing it. I saw my job as a mommy to keep that light going—make sure no one ever tried to extinguish her dreams. Now I’m faced with keeping that flame lit all by myself, and heaven knows her inner light was challenged in the most painful way.

Over the last 373 days, I’ve felt depleted and numb in ways I never want to feel again. One year ago, I had a house full of people. Michael’s death was still so fresh and raw for them, so my home—our home, overflowed with people flocking to support me. I know the sentiments are still there, but one year later, it’s just me and the girls mostly. People have moved forward in their own ways, the way families do—the way they should. There’s still that moment during dinner when a silence falls upon the house because he usually came home while we were eating.

This week I must do what I’ve avoided for a year. I must say another big goodbye to a life that was interrupted, derailed. It is time to finally put the last of Michael’s things in storage, and prepare our apartment for another family. Soon the home we brought our daughters to after they were born, the place we melded our lives into one 13 years ago, will become a place for another family to call home.

This is a necessary moment in truly moving forward, but it feels paralyzing. I walked into the yard today, and saw that my rosemary, sage and mint plants are all still alive. They survived a year with no love from me, just whatever kindness Mother Nature bestowed upon them. They even made it through Hurricane Irene last September. Mint grows like a weed, sprouting wherever it can. It’s persistent and refuses to give up, or in for that matter. Perhaps I am as resilient as those herbs because this little light of mine is still flickering, and will one day shine bright again.

Smoky Watermelon Gazpacho

I hadn’t intended to pair a recipe with this post, and then this soup I made last week came to mind. It reminded me a lot of how I’ve been feeling the last few days. On their own, the ingredients don’t seem like much—it’s just tomato, watermelon and onion, and they almost seem like an unlikely pairing to throw in a blender together. Yet this works, and beautifully. The watermelon adds a bright, refreshing coolness to tame the harshness of the raw onion. The tomato is the bridge for these two ingredients to meet, since it is afterall the main ingredient in gazpacho.

Our life at certain points may not seem perfect, but the knowledge we gather along the way is key in shaping our future. Each experience has merit and meaning, and helps keep that little light going strong.

serves 2 as an appetizer, 4 as a generous-sized amuse bouche

1 large beefsteak tomato, diced

1/2 cup (83 grams) seedless watermelon, diced

1/2 of a small yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup vegetable or corn broth

Pinch of chipotle powder

Generous pinch of fine sea salt

Good quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

2 basil leaves, finely chopped

Add the tomato, watermelon, onion, broth and chipotle powder to a blender. Puree until very smooth. Place a fine sieve over a bowl. Pour the gazpacho into the strainer, using a rubber spatula to press down the solids and extract as much soup as possible. Discard any remaining solids.

Give the soup a good stir. Divide into bowls, or juice glasses if serving as an amuse. Swirl a bit of olive oil on top and garnish with the chopped basil.

Make Ahead: The soup may be prepared one day in advance. Store it in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge, and shake well before serving.

Some more cold soup inspiration from my friends at Food Network:
Feed Me Phoebe: Creamy Spanish Cold Tomato Soup (Salmorejo Cordobes)
The Lemon Bowl: Chilled Cucumber Mint Yogurt Soup
Weelicious: Summer Fruit Gazpacho
Devour: 4 Cool Summer Soups
FN Dish: Take Out Your Blender (10 Refreshing Summer Soups)


  • denise

    I adore that song, my god-daughter sings it every so often when we are together, and yes, it brings a tear or two to my eyes!

  • lynne

    At 15 months out,moving forward is hard. Before he died my husband told me to sell the house. After reading this, I think I will give it some thought.
    Thank you.

  • SKR

    Thinking of you and your girls often and always. Hoping this next year is filled with plenty of joy, light, and laughter!

  • Julie

    It has been over a year since my son died and even though the rest of the world moves on, my counselor reminds me that it is still so recent for us. Other people have so much less to process and also so much less to miss. The processing will take a lifetime. It seems as though there are thousands who miss Mikey, but of course, so few who got to experience the every little moment. Love to you as you pack…and unpack so many memories and bring Mikey into your new home.

  • Jennie

    Jennie, I think of you every time I write my name and send you the very best healing thoughts.
    Another Jennie

  • Tristen Lawrence

    Perhaps after the pain of cleaning it out, there will be peace knowing that the apartment is rented out and its life is moving forward. I still think about you, about me, what a similar experience would look like in my life, and it feels so real. Thank you for sharing. Your experiences make mine more deliberate and meaningful, and they give me courage that I could survive in the worst of scenarios. Like the mint, we are hardy and strong when we need to be. It’s survival and it’s living life to the fullest, savoring all of the odd pairings and flavors of life. Thanks for a wonderful blog.

  • Nancy

    A lovely post. I was one of those at your house in the first days…and I still think of you and Mikey often. (Though at work, he was just Mike.) You are a light. And not a little one. Shine on.

  • Selfish Mom

    OK, this is bad timing because I’m about to head out of town, but then I’m there! With chocolate!
    I remember when my friend’s mother died, I made arrangements to hop on a plane and get to her right away. And when she found out, she told me not to – that her house would be filled with people for a while, but then she’d be alone and that’s when she’d need me.
    I’ll try to remember that better.

  • Alyse

    My heart is with you. I have tears in my eyes just reading your post. I am not that tough, but as a fellow NYer, now moving to the PNW, I always want you to know that people are nearby.

  • Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.)

    Jennie this is a beautiful post. I can only imagine how hard every day must be for your three but having spent a little time with you all in Paris, I can honestly say you are doing a great job. Moving on was always going to be the hardest thing but you are approaching it with courage. SUCH a wonderful role model to the girls. Sending you much love and big hugs xo

  • Melissa

    I have been thinking of you and your daughters often these past few days Jennie. I saw this and thought of you “Be smart enough to hold on, be brave enough to let go.” You are doing both–with grace and courage, as you allow us to walk with you on your journey. I remember that year of “firsts” after John died–including moving into a new house with my childen one year after his death. Surrounding you with gentleness as you remember your past, and tenaciously and tentatively embrace your future.

  • Diane

    I have tears in my eyes just reading your post.
    I lost my Mom 26 years ago and I miss her everyday!
    She always sang that song to my brother and I when we were young and reading your post brought make so many wonderful memories.
    I also lost my Brother just under 2 years ago as well Wow your words really made the tears flow!

  • Maria in NJ

    Jennie you have strength that you don’t even know you have…you write so elegantly, its so deep and raw…moving on is tough, I haven’t leaned that yet, its been 36 years for me and I still cry, damn it… I don’t wish that for you, or anyone else for that matter…be strong (than me)…m

  • Minnie@thelady8home

    Let it shine, all the time, let it shine. It’s still bright, still clear, and we can see it. You are one brave lady. There will be another first for you some day – of another kind of happiness, of joy, of love.

  • Martha

    I stumbled on your blog and started following you less than a year ago. I marvel at your strength and honesty every time you post. I really enjoy your writing style. There is comfort in your words for people who have gone through loss and don’t know how to express it as well as you do.


    Sending loads of hugs to you and the girls. And praying that you find comfort by taking the step, forward.
    You define courage and strength with utmost grace, my friend.
    ps: So glad to have met you in person during FBF this year.

  • katie

    Your post reminds me of how to be with my friend. The loss of Mickey and the loss of David are very close in days. Thank you