The Reduction: Living After 3 Deaths and a Fire

The Reduction: Living After 3 Deaths and a Fire
February 26, 2015 Leslie Juvin-Acker

2015. What a year thus far. On New Year’s Day, my grandmother in the Philippines passed away surrounded by family. Not long after, our well-loved neighbor, Jerry, passed away after a valiant battle against cancer. Last week, Mr J’s grandfather passed away peacefully at 104. The same day, our oven caught fire and we’ve been living in a hotel since then.

With two little ones and demanding workloads, it’s hard to take a step back and just take it all in. Instead of wading our way through each situation, life has crashed over us like a wave and we’re caught sloshing around in the whitewater, holding our breath until it loosens its grip. While I’m waiting to catch my breath, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on these recent events and some wisdom imparted upon me by two of my neighbors.

One evening, while enjoying a few glasses of champagne and esoteric conversation with two retired neighbor ladies, one of whom was Jerry’s wife, they said that we all eventually become a reduction.

If you’re unfamiliar with cooking, a reduction is simply a liquid mixture that has been evaporated through simmering and the end result is an intensified flavor of the core ingredients. Essentially, as life goes on we’re eventually worn down to our core qualities which reveal themselves more concentrated and apparent with time.

I think we all know or knew that one bitter old person who carries anger in their hearts and we all know that one old person who, despite life’s ups and downs, maintained a sense of peace about them. The ladies told me that we have a choice as to what kind of reduction we end up being. We either cling to hope and the knowledge that we’ll eventually get through whatever it is we’re facing or we let things get us down and give up, letting life get the best of us. Delicious or disgusting – our reduction is entirely up to us.

Our kids schedules are all out of whack, we’ve had to start over by getting all of the things our kids lost in the fire, and we’ve had zero time alone as a couple to talk about our loss and to regroup as husband and wife.  Presently, it’s easy to get depressed and angry about life’s recent challenges, but I think about that one, bitter old person I know and I say to myself, “I don’t want to be like that!” I want to be like Papi, Lola, and Jerry: people who, no matter what struggle they’ve faced, managed to come through it with a sense of peace and calm about them. They were, and still are, examples as to how strong the human spirit can be.

I’m not going to hide the fact that every woman (the wife, the mother, the entrepreneur, the friend) inside of me is tired. It’s a deep tired that a month in the south of France could heal – detached from the daily routine, sun bathing, swimming, sleeping, sight seeing, good food and champagne, and old friends and family to get a girl to have a good belly laugh. Unfortunately, I can’t say to my in-laws, “I need to escape to the beach house, can I have the keys and is there food in the pantry?” I have to find new ways to energize all while I’m dealing with life.

However, I must be one charming and lovable individual with equally charming and lovable husband and kids, because it’s situations like this where I’ve been relieved to receive the blessings of old and new friends who have outstretched their hands to help our family. And, I’m reminded once more to take stock of the good things in life: the good people, our health, the resources at our disposal, and the love that is all around us magically meeting all of our needs.

Right now, it feels like we’re walking in the dark. But when things get dark, the stars shine brighter. It’s just a question of looking up and allowing them to guide the way until the sun rises again.

Photo source: Quotes Lover