I had the best cake I'd ever had in my life at 2 a.m. on a bench outside a hospital.
It tasted like friendship.
My husband quite recently had an organ transplant. That is a remarkable gift that changes everything for our family, starting with our hope-for-the-future quotient, after several years of eroding health.
Just as that gift, given by someone generous enough to see beyond the pain of their loss, changes his future, the actions of the people around me have changed my future — and my future actions as others go through challenging times.
That single slice of chocolate cake was hand-delivered by one of my dearest friends, who'd been at work as I waited through the many hours of the operation itself. As soon as she got off work, she drove over to give me a hug and bring me a celebratory treat.
Another friend had dropped off her iPad earlier in the evening. She'd loaded it with mindless games because she figured, quite correctly, that I would not be able to concentrate on anything more technical than, say, "Plants vs. Zombies." She was right.
That same friend picked up my daughters the next day and took them home for a morning of cooking. She seemed to know that they'd be feeling helpless and out of the loop as the operation and immediate intensive care period unfolded. And she was wise enough to know they wanted to contribute to the family's healing, though they didn't know how to make it happen without some help. They had worries and restless energy but no direction.
So they cooked. And cooked some more. She had supplies laid out and the three of them prepared meal after meal, a marathon that filled the freezer with a couple week's worth of ready-made meals. At night, as I heat something up, I thank the girls for making dinner.
It's funny how big a role food plays in the way that we love each other. One friend dropped by with my favorite beverage, while another bought some simple, ready-made food I could heat and eat as the days turned into inpatient — and sometimes impatient — weeks. Another friend brought my husband a clever candy bouquet to give him something to look forward to as he recuperates. He has a sweet tooth.
Love takes many forms, and there's nothing like a crisis to bring it out. One of my friends did a two-fer. One of her colleagues died recently and she knew his widow was struggling. She hired her to help one day with my housework while I was at the hospital. That blessed us both.
Every time the door opened in the hospital to welcome a new visitor, sunshine spilled into the room. I've spent the last three weeks assessing our wealth, tallying the prayers and hugs and visits, the phone calls, the cards and gifts, the gestures that said "you're on our minds."
Making someone feel loved, it turns out, can be pretty simple. Winding down with Facebook one night, I found another friend had posted a photo of a beautiful sunset and left a note on it for me because he figured I had probably missed seeing its glory myself. It was lovely.
We're still in healing mode at my house, but it's a process helped along by so much kindness. And it's raised my awareness of how simple it can be to help others. I've on occasion been too busy or self-involved to reach out where I know I could have made a difference.
I'm learning it's pure joy to be part of a world where love tastes like chocolate cake and hugs and is the real measure of a person's wealth.
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.