• Neva Bryan

The Last Biscuit

Updated: May 31

The Last Biscuit

I didn’t know that the last biscuit my mom made for me was the last biscuit she would ever make for me.

Nothing happened to indicate the significance of the event. Confetti should have rained down upon us as Mom placed that last warm biscuit on my plate. I could have stood to honor it as if it were the haggis at a Burns supper. Instead, it was an unremarkable moment.

I like to think that if I had known, I would have savored it more than usual. Not just the biscuit. The moment, too.

I hope I would have paid more attention to Mom as she worked, absorbing every detail.

Now, in my mind’s eye, I watch her dust the table with flour to keep the biscuits from sticking when she rolls them out. After that, she spoons self-rising flour into a bowl and uses her calloused hands to incorporate shortening and buttermilk until it all forms a thick dough.

Mom dumps the mixture onto the floured table. The handles of her rolling pin squeak as she moves it back and forth. She uses an empty evaporated milk can to cut out thick white discs, which she places on an old cookie sheet. She slides it into a hot oven.

Our kitchen is small, and the oven warms the room. A buttermilk tang hangs in the air. Time slows while we wait for the biscuits to finish baking. We occupy ourselves by setting jars of apple butter and blackberry jelly on the table, along with a stick of butter. By the time we lay the plates, and pour the coffee and milk, the biscuits are ready.

They are golden on the outside. When I break one open, it’s fluffy but substantial. I put a pat of butter on it, then replace the top so the butter will melt fast. I slather some blackberry jelly on mine. Mom adds apple butter to hers.

The food is perfect. So is the moment.

One of mom’s highest expressions of love was the food she cooked for her family. Nothing fancy. Soup beans. Fried potatoes. Cornbread. A “mess” of greens. Gravy. Cabbage rolls. Macaroni and tomatoes. Biscuits, of course.

It’s hard to say how many meals she cooked in her lifetime. I tried to figure it out once and came up with 64,428. It was probably more than that. She told me once that she learned to cook when she was ten. Every day after that, she helped Granny feed a hungry horde: five kids, Granddad, assorted relatives, and visiting neighbors.

You never have a chance to go back and say what you should have said. You never have the opportunity to unsay what you shouldn’t have said.

That was a lot of work, not much acknowledged. I wonder how many times I said “thank you” for a meal my mom cooked for me. Not as often as I should have, I’m sure.

That’s the problem with the death of a loved one. You never have a chance to go back and say what you should have said. You never have the opportunity to unsay what you shouldn’t have said.

Thank you, Mom, for cooking meals when your back ached. Thank you for standing in a hot kitchen with sweat gathered on your brow. Thank you for washing dishes until the skin on your hands cracked.

Thank you for giving me the pork chop off your plate, and for taking the heel of the bread loaf and insisting that it was your favorite part.

I never imagined living in a world without you. I couldn’t conceive that you would die.

But you did.

And now I wish I had been able to celebrate your last biscuit.

What moment would you have savored if you had known? What would you have said or done differently if you had known? Please share your thoughts below.

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