In 2013, I called a friend of mine and asked her if she would teach me how to bottle fresh peaches. I had done this with my mother as a child, but was uncertain if I was ready to take on the task alone for the first time. My friend happily agreed and we spent one delightful afternoon together bottling sweet peaches. Some of the peaches weren’t quite ripe, but my friend reminded me that this wouldn’t matter because once sugar was added, the peaches would taste delicious. She was so right–but I wouldn’t discover the deeper truth of this statement until one year later.
In 2014 I spent months in treatment for lung cancer, both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, five days a week. Radiation treatment involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. The trouble is that the rays may also need to pass through other structures and tissues before reaching the target cancer cells. My esophagus and surrounding areas of my chest had to be exposed to radiation, which led to an acutely sore throat and extreme difficulty swallowing during the latter part of my treatments. It became nearly impossible to eat anything other than soft, bland foods or liquids for a number of weeks. To make things worse, the chemotherapy treatments caused most everything to taste and smell bad.
There were few foods that I could eat without great difficulty. One of those foods was sweet, bottled, peaches–either plain, with cream, or made into peach smoothies. I had only canned twelve bottles of peaches the summer before, and when I reached that last bottle I felt distress as I still had weeks of treatment to complete. The same friend had driven me to my treatments once a week, and I told her how the peaches she taught me to can were helping me to survive my eating woes and that I was on my last bottle.
A few days later, as I returned home from treatment, I found a large box on my front porch. There was a homemade note from my friend. I opened the box and found 12 beautiful bottles of peaches. She had taken the time once again to teach me, and this time the lesson was about giving and serving. It takes a lot of time to prepare and can food, but her efforts were such a sweet blessing to me when I could eat very little. Her service enabled me to continue eating as I finished my treatment. Friends give so much and make the challenging times taste a little sweeter, just like adding a sprinkle of sugar and little extra cream to delicious peaches!