Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Pie for Mikey

I have been crying off and on all week when I think of Jennifer Perillo - a woman I've never met - a woman who lives on the other side of the continent from me. Jennifer is food editor of "Working Woman Magazine." She's a blogger, a mom, and was, until a week ago, a wife. Her husband, Mike, died unexpectedly a week ago of a massive heart attack.

Word of Mike's death spread quickly via Twitter throughout the food blogger community and from there to the rest of the world. If you think that it's impossible to say anything meaningful in just the 140 characters allowed in a Twitter message, Jennifer's post right after her husband's death might change your mind. She wrote, "He's gone. And my heart is shattered in a million pieces."  What more could there be to say?

Countless people across the country have offered her support. And in response to the typical question, "What can we do to help?" Jennifer replied with this in a blog post:
"As I spend Friday reflecting on the love and life that was gone in an instant, I'd like to invite all of you to celebrate his life too. Mikey loved peanut butter cream pie. I haven't made it in a while, and I've had it on my to-do list for a while now.
I kept telling myself I would make it for him tomorrow. Time has suddenly stood still, though, and I'm waiting to wake up and learn to live a new kind of normal. For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there's no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on."
 She included in the post her recipe for peanut butter cream pie.

Yesterday, I noticed on Twitter that #apieformikey was trending in Seattle. Today it has been trending across the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and New Zealand. I saw countless tweets yesterday from people making pies and getting ready to deliver them. Some people posted their own favorite peanut butter pie recipes. It felt like a movement had begun. There's no way to know how many pies, and variations on that theme, have been made in Mikey's memory. And that's a beautiful thing.

For as many times as I have teared up this week thinking of Jennifer's loss, I have come to tears of joy just as many times reading about the outpouring of loving kindness this event has brought about. When I think not just of the kindnesses extended personally to Jennifer and her two girls, but all those pies made with love and passed along to thousands of others, I can't help but feel appreciation for my fellow human beings. My heart is full.

Of the various posts I've seen this week online, two stand out in my mind as being most eloquent. Shauna Ahern's post, "light in the darkness," captures not only her shock at the news of Mikey's death, but also the essence of the camaraderie found in the food blogger community. She describes a recent gathering of these food folks, who may have met initially in cyberspace, but in "real life" are connected by their love of food and the sharing of that love. (Find Shauna @glutenfreegirl on Twitter)

The second post is Todd Porter and Diane Cu's video: Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey. This combination of video, music and twitter messages expresses much more than a single one of those elements ever could. (Find them @whiteonrice on Twitter)

I believe it was Shakespeare who said, "'Tis an ill wind indeed that blows no good." It is my hope that Jennifer and her family will find some comfort in knowing that their loss has opened so many hearts and kitchens. For all its twists and turns and pains and mysteries, life is still good. And so are people.