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Last Meal

Stashed in: #kindness, Awesome, Restore your faith in humanity., Philanthropy!, Compassion, humanity

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Wonderful program that brings chef-cooked meals to hospice patients AND THEIR FAMILIES.

What a wonderful idea!

The last meal I shared with my dad, a little more than 12 hours before he breathed his last, was burgers on the grill. He loved them, and he’d been grilling them for me well into adulthood. He couldn’t have been hungry, but he dutifully ate two bites of a loaded-up rare burger. It must not have been easy, and we—grandkids, ex-wife and daughter-in-law—complimented him. Straining to keep his eyes open, he said the burger was good. Same time the following night, he was gone.

When we wrote Ad Hoc At Home, a family-style cookbook, Thomas Keller opened the book with the last meal he cooked for his dad—barbecued chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes and strawberry shortcake—because meals are about family as much as they are about food, and last meals are important. Both of our dads died at home under hospice care—and anyone who’s experienced hospice knows that it is among the most valuable fields of medicine and care. But many families find themselves in hospice facilities, waiting, crying, talking, trying to comfort and to be comforted. What they don’t and can’t do is enact the most calming, loving and embracing act of all: to cook a meal and share it with each other. In a hospice facility, this fundamental ritual of our lives is either prevented or very difficult.

In April 2008, at a conference of hospice directors, William Finn, who ran a hospice in Buffalo, spoke with Mark Maynard-Parisi, senior managing partner of Blue Smoke (a part of the Union Square Hospitality Group). Maynard-Parisi explained that as part of USHG’s charitable work, they brought weekly meals to the hospice of Beth Israel, a few blocks from their offices. Finn went to see it in action.

Finn loved what he saw, and knew he could do better. Maynard-Parisi ran restaurants, not the hospice. Finn, though, ran his hospice. So when he returned to Buffalo, he brought in local chefs to cook the food on premises, serve the food on real plates with real silverware, and serve wine. He flew Maynard-Parisi in for the first “Dinner To Remember,” and Maynard-Parisi was blown away.

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