Courtesy of Weston Mackinnon

“I’m the Dad of the Boy Who Died,” He Said

Running through the neighborhood, they waved guns and promised vengeance for the death of their 17 year old brother and friend. Small rival gangs had clashed in north Minneapolis, and these young men ached for action.

My mom and her neighbors ducked down then but came together to help. Mom called Ann* who knew the boys. Ann* wielded true words to touch the anger deep inside them. Their grief and loss hid under rage. Her knowing them, and knowing the people involved, helped and the young men called off the hunt.

Mom and her neighbors walked up the street to the sad house where police sirens had wailed earlier and news cameras rolled for days.

“We want them to know that we’re sorry and we’re grieving with them,” my Mom and her neighbors had said. In a quiet lull one day, my mom found the mother of the young gang member who had died, and respectfully, warmly, expressed her condolences and spoke of prayer and support. A week or two later, while walking around the pond, my Mom and her housemate met a man.

“I’m the dad of the boy who died,” he introduced himself, the words falling soft from his grief-stricken face. Mom and Elisabeth prayed for him right then, grief welling up with him. They expressed solidarity and support, sent by surrounding neighbors too.

And when you’re aching for action and the words fall short… what do you do? 

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Mcculough, Unsplash Media

Another day, family relatives shared in small online spaces the medical news of a child’s health concerns and the uncertainty that followed. My chest tightened and I remembered six years ago when my own small son had fallen comatose down the stairs in a surprise seizure. Driving to the hospital that day, my six year old and I had talked of bees and death and heaven. Church friends brought us meals that night.

When you’re aching for action and the words fall short… what do you do? Reading my relative’s words caught my breath. Aching for action, and my words falling short, I thawed out chicken and printed out a familiar recipe: “Carissa’s Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas.”

Photo Courtesy of Chris Fuller

On a hot dusky night this Fourth of July, neighbor friends shared of their dear elderly mom dying. Perched precariously on prickly roof shingles afterwards, my family and I had slapped mosquitoes, watched bursting fireworks from neighborhood shows, and it had flashed inside me, this need to do something.

“Can I bring you a meal?” I had asked.

Aching for action and my words falling short, I remembered the eight months of my Dad’s pancreatic cancer hospice. Savoring every special day with him, I hadn’t wanted to waste time on anything that took me away. Friends brought meals off and on. And then my feared-for moment came when his breathing stopped and the silence sounded so loud that it woke us up in my  parents’ house that night. I had been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to breathe, as grief and shock compressed me. I found, however, that I did still breathe. Sucking air in and out in silent staring, I continued to breathe, even though the fog of grief slowed everything down into silent waves.

Robbed of words and energy for a while, I was held and blessed by kind friends who brought meals, who took my youngest on playdates, and who prayed.


A day or so after the muggy Fourth of July, I stopped at my neighbors’ house. “I’m so sorry for this ache of missing your mom.” We talked more but mostly I was quiet, listening, remembering, nodding as my own tears welled up to join theirs.

“Do you like chicken fajitas?” I asked my neighbors. “Does Sunday work for you?”


When you’re aching for action, but the words fall short, what do you do? I’d love to learn from you. If you like to bring meals, do you have a Go-To meal for when you share food? (My easy chicken fajita recipe is in the comments here.) I’d love to get yours as well.


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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Dougan on July 29, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    My friend Carissa found and shared this recipe with me. Now, after modifications, it is my Go To recipe for a meal to share with others.

    Carissa’s Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas (can be cooked in a skillet too)

    • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, sliced
    • 4 bell peppers, any color, sliced
    • 1-2 onions, sliced
    • ½ tsp. chili powder
    • ¼ tsp. paprika
    • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin (or more)
    • ¼ tsp. dried oregano
    • ¼ tsp. sea salt
    • ⅛ tsp. black pepper
    • 1 Tbsp. oil

    These ingredients can be combined in a gallon ziplock bag and refrigerated for a day or two.
    Bring to friends, with accompanying toppings, tortillas, etc.

    1. Preheat oven to 375℉. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. On the baking sheet, mix chicken, peppers, onions, seasoning and oil together.
    3. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
    4. Serve

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