The Bread of Life

So many of us are suffering right now. This past year as a result of Covid-19 has not been friendly to us humans and despite the vaccines we are not out of the tick-infested weeds yet. Whether the suffering is acute or chronic, one thing I know: suffering is universal and there but for the grace of God go we.

My grandmother had a saying: “Don’t cry with a loaf of bread under each arm.” As you can guess, it means that we need to count our blessings, or as my mom used to say, “Don’t complain; things can always get worse.”

skunk cabbage — a malodorous wetland plant and one of the first signs of spring

My grandmother came to the United States at 18, leaving her parents and siblings behind to start a new life in an arranged marriage to a man who was more than two decades her senior. She didn’t want to leave, but her father thought that the chances for her success — being married to a man who owned his own little corner store — were greater in American than in Italy where she lived on a farm, growing and raising what they ate each day, always subject to the vagaries of war, weather, and whatever political party was in power. And while I have greatly enjoyed the fruits of my grandmother’s emigration, I can’t say that her life was any better or easier here than it would have been had she stayed put in Italy with her family.

My grandparents did not enjoy a happy marriage. Age was a big factor, plus the depression sucked the life out of most people, but immigrants, as they always will, had it much harder being in the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder. Making a living sometimes meant barely getting by. My mother tells the story of my grandfather who lost his store during the depression and, as a way to keep money coming in, sold Philadelphia pretzels, pushing his cart from one street to the next, starting early in the morning until late in the evening when he would go home, eat dinner, and fall asleep in his chair. There wasn’t much money coming in, but they didn’t go hungry either which was better than many people, and my mother, the youngest of three children remembers that while she didn’t see her father much, every morning there’d be three stacks of five pennies lined up on the sideboard, one for each child, and to my mother, that was an enduring sign of her father’s love.

rainbows follow the rain

My mother and her siblings were my grandmother’s heart and soul. When my grandmother lost her only son to MS she cried and cried, so much that she eventually suffered a brain aneurysm and died at the age of 60. I was 3 years old at the time and had no way of asking the millions of questions that I would have asked my grandmother over the years if I’d only had the chance, and so I make do with the stories I have, piecing my history together like a seamstress sews a quilt.

My husband’s extended family experienced a terrible tragedy this past week, one that has left us all shaken to our roots, one that will take years to recover from, if ever. It’s times like these we question the wisdom: of our beliefs, of our religion, or of God himself. The Buddha would say that the essence of life is suffering. I prefer to think that the essence of life is a journey whose ways and means and end are unknown to us, and like immigrants to a distant shore, all we can do is disembark, take a deep breath and a good look around, and dig in using all the tools God gave us, doing the very best we can every day because that is what we will be judged on: whether we were kind; whether we cared for one another in times of sickness and health; whether we listened with compassion and reached out with arms and hearts wide open to receive whatever might come back knowing that life is an ephemeral stream, just as quickly flooded as dry.

It’s Easter week, the holiest in the Christian calendar, a time of rebirth and renewal. It’s also Passover, and the first weeks of Spring. Everywhere we see the pattern of being reborn running throughout the natural world and ourselves. The daffodils do not decry the snows of winter, but wait patiently for the sun to warm their way back to the surface. Nature’s physical rebirth is our spiritual one because, even when we forget, we are inextricably linked with the mother of us all.

So today, no matter your denomination, take a moment to give thanks for all that life has given you, the good and the bad, and nibble at the bread in your arms and thank life and all its vicissitudes. We are here to learn and to grow. Sometimes our lives are tempered in tragedy and others times in good fortune, and while no one gets out alive, it’s up to us to choose what to do with the time we’ve been given.

May we all be safe;
may we all be happy;
may we all be healthy;
and may we live in peace and harmony with one another,
forever and ever.
Amen.

pam lazos 4.3.21

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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32 Responses to The Bread of Life

  1. da-AL says:

    I am so sorry for your husband’s family. there is truly so much to be grateful for & challenging times often reveal dazzling beauty…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful and inspiring post Pam. I am so sorry for the tragedy in your family. I hold you all close to my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. amandAVN says:

    I love the way that you have touched on the things that personal tragedy can bring home to us: things like the fragility of life, and the importance of appreciating the things that we often take for granted. Also the importance of kindness and caring. I don’t know if suffering IS the essence of life, but I often wish that caring and kindness could be the essence of life! Sadly, suffering will always be a part of life, and that can be a very heavy burden to bear. Strength to you and your family over this difficult time Pam, and thank you for a touching and heartfelt post x 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Such a deep and lovely post, Pam. I love the stories about your grandparents and the eloquence of your reflections about life, interwoven with your grandmother’s wisdom and wonderful saying. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I hope you had a wonderful Easter, Pam!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ally Bean says:

    Beautifully written. I’ve never heard the saying “Don’t cry with a loaf of bread under each arm” and I like it. Literal and pragmatic. I’m sorry for your husband’s family’s tragedy and can only hope that there’ll be something good [a learning experience perhaps?] to come from it, eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. lampmagician says:

    Oh, dear Pam. You spoke the right words. It is a hard time for all of us to get through this (may I say) examination. And it is always helpful to look back and remember. Thank you, and wish you a healthy and precious time. 🙏🤗💖🌹

    Liked by 2 people

  8. anncrawfordauthor says:

    Love to you and your family, my beautiful friend. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  9. anncrawfordauthor says:

    Love to you and your family, my beautiful friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. anncrawfordauthor says:

    Love to you and your family, beautiful friend. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Linda Schaub says:

    A “like” for the story about your grandparents … hard work during difficult times and the simple joy of the stacks of pennies. But strike that “like” for the difficult year with COVID and I am sorry your husband’s extended family had tragedy so close to Easter and the joy that Easter and Springtime brings was muted for you and yours. Keep the faith Pam – sometimes it’s all we’ve got.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mick Canning says:

    You mentioned the tragedy on my post, recently. So awful. I really feel for you all. I hope you have a Happy Easter, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. hilarymb says:

    Dear Pam – what an excellent post to read at this time … sadly – life is that … the ups and downs – there’s always both, happy and grief … our experiences of life on this planet. I know I’ve been counting my blessings when I’ve felt at my wits end … and I can get through, still smile, still remember others, still appreciate life on this earth …
    I feel for you and for your family … with thoughts at this time – peace – Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Pat Dodson says:

    Beautifully done, Pam. I am sorry for the tragedy your husband’s family recently suffered. I remember meeting your mom’s brother when he was visiting at your house. I didn’t realize that you would have been only three years old. I guess we really are Old friends. It is a blessing that all of us can look back at the humble beginnings those who came before us and appreciate their sacrifices. Our lives are unbelievably easier. Have a wonderful holiday. Keep writing and sharing your wonderful insights with us. ( A few weeks ago, I repeated the “loaf of bread” metaphor. The person I was talking to had no idea what it meant. Sometimes a little age does help.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      Oh Pat, how wonderful to hear from you when I was just now missing my mom so much and thinking of going through another holiday without her. Yes, we are old friends – but not old people! I am grateful for my easier life, that is certainly true, and not surprised your friend didn’t understand the metaphor. Wishing you a wonderful Easter and a good many dose of chocolate! (Also, I sang happy birthday to Stephen via text today.😂)🥰😘❤️

      Like

  15. Susan Scott says:

    This is so lovely, tender and heartfelt Pam, thank you for sharing this with us, though I’m so sorry about your husband’s personal tragedy. 🌺❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pam, thanks for sharing your heartfelt story of your immigrant grandmother and the struggles of your mother’s family during the depression. I’m saddened to learn of the terrible tragedy that has struck your husband’s extended family. As you say, we never, if ever, recover from tragedies that strike our lives like a bolt of dry lightning. I believe that such tragedies work to make us appreciate the miracles that each day brings and to treasure the love of the people in our lives. As your wise grandmother used to say: “Don’t cry with a loaf of bread under each arm.” Blessings, sister ❤

    Liked by 2 people

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