MaMa did pies, and life, right

MaMa left behind a tradition of excellence in the kitchen.
MaMa left behind a tradition of excellence in the kitchen.
My grandma (my mom?s mother) made the best pies. Visits to my grandparents? farm were never complete without a homemade fruit-filled pastry waiting to delight my taste buds, an exclamation point to punctuate a delicious home-cooked meal.

MaMa, as we knew her, knew how to do pies right, from the flaky crust to the perfectly-seasoned, soft-yet-slightly-crisp apples bursting with cinnamon on the inside.

Apple wasn?t the only kind of pie MaMa made, but it was my favorite. I was always excited to see her round Tupperware container hinting at a treat to come.

I was a willing taste-tester and recipient of countless treats to come out of MaMa?s kitchen. I think of her pecan tarts (a Thanksgiving treat), karevei (a Swiss Mennonite round sweet bread spread with frosting for special occasions), or another one of my favorites, beroggi casserole, a spin on the more traditional verenika.

MaMa?s culinary talents overflowed from her own kitchen to the Hesston Public School system, where she served as a cook for many years. She labored early each school morning, preparing home-cooked meals for the countless students to come through her cafeteria.

When I graduated from college, MaMa gave me a book filled with handwritten recipes for making many of her specialties.

One year, while she was still able, I requested verenika for my birthday. MaMa and I stood side by side in the kitchen, rolling out dough, cutting it into squares and filling it with the customary cottage cheese mixture. I treasure that time we spent together.

On another occasion, she and I made zwiebach, pinching by hand two round dough balls and stacking them, one on top of the other, to bake.

A handful of months ago, I even made her apple pie.

My family said our earthly good-byes to our dear MaMa last month. She left behind a tradition of excellence in the kitchen, yes, but her legacy is so much more.

MaMa made time for people, showing her love in how she spent her time.

Life was never too busy for MaMa to press pause and enjoy the people around her. As her only granddaughter, I was showered with plenty of attention.

I have many fond memories of time spent together, whether that be enjoying a picnic lunch in the pasture, swinging, going to the barn to feed the cats, playing games or reading.

It?s never easy saying good-bye to someone so special. As my mom so eloquently said at the memorial service, MaMa lived in many places throughout her life, from Portland, Maine, to Juneau, Alaska, but she has now made her last move?to heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a blessing to know MaMa is no longer suffering.

Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams spoke these powerful words of truth after losing his wife as a result of a car accident last month: ?We didn?t lose her. When you lose something you can?t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.?

What perspective.

Hardly a day goes by where I?m not reminded of MaMa in some way?using her crockpot in my own kitchen, drying dishes with a tea-towel she embroidered, hearing a certain song on the radio. I?m sure it will always be that way.

MaMa?s passing has challenged me to carry on her legacy of loving and serving others. It?s helped me realize that good intentions don?t mean much. I need to act. That may mean spending less time on the to-do lists or the ?tyranny of the urgent? and spending more time being present with others.

When something triggers a memory of MaMa, I?m reminded to carry on her legacy, serving around the table, yes, but more than that, serving as a way of life.

Janae Rempel is sports editor at the Free Press. She can be reached at Janae@hillsboro?freepress.com.