“Fresh Crab and French Bread,” Ensign, June 1985, 38–39
It was a typical winter day in San Francisco, cool and damp. We had lived there a few years before and were back renewing memories. Seeing the large, steaming crab vats as we walked along Fisherman’s Wharf, I exclaimed, “Oh, let’s take some crab home to Emma.”
“Crab?” asked my husband. “Why crab?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she would enjoy it.”
Sensing my ever-present desire to bring cheer to a grieving widow in our ward, Ron counseled me to find a more easily transported gift. He suggested that we find something more suitable in one of the souvenir shops beckoning us.
In and out of the shops we went, searching in vain for just the right memento. Empty-handed and tired, we started for our car, only to pass the crab vats once more.
“Ron, I still want to take some crab to Emma,” I pleaded.
He was still resistant to hauling crab 150 miles, especially when I wasn’t even sure Emma liked it. Nevertheless, we asked the vendor about transporting un-refrigerated crab that distance.
Soon we were crossing the Bay Bridge with the crab carefully wrapped in many thicknesses of paper; a long loaf of the Wharf’s famous french bread was tucked in the side of the sack.
On the trip home my thoughts turned to Emma. I remembered the sacrament meeting ten months before when Emma, her husband, Ed, and their oldest son, David, had spoken just before David left to serve a mission. That was the last time we saw Ed. After accompanying David to the Missionary Training Center, Ed suffered a fatal heart attack while still in Utah. He never returned to California.
Ed was a gifted surgeon, highly respected in our community. His passing was felt deeply. In addition to Emma, he left six children, the youngest just a toddler.
Though many grieved with the family, it was difficult to express their sympathy because Emma was extremely reserved and quiet. Few knew her well. As the months went on, her sorrow did not seem to lessen. Grief and poor health found her withdrawing from activity outside her home.
I was determined to be her friend, her sister in the gospel, and not let fear or personal rejection dilute my concern. Each week I went to her home, sometimes to be invited in while she shared her heartache. Other times she met me at the door but quickly terminated the visit with, “Thank you for coming.”
As I rang the doorbell that day I could hear many feet running to answer. The door opened. Emma, surrounded by her children, stood there puzzled at my brown sack and protruding loaf of bread.
“Yes?” she inquired.
My spirits were dampened by her coolness, but I faked enthusiasm over our trip to the city and the gift we had brought.
As she took the fresh crab and french bread, Emma asked, “Is this for any special occasion?”
“No,” I replied, “I just thought you might enjoy some crab from the Wharf.”
“Thank you very much,” she said, expressionless, and closed the door.
I returned to the car and slumped down into the seat, deflated. All I could say to Ron was, “I’m not sure Emma likes crab.” We finished the drive home in silence.
Two days later came the following letter:
My dear friends:
I was very touched by your kind gesture last night and feel compelled to share a few thoughts with you.
Yesterday morning began with the usual daily tasks. I was out sweeping the walks when I looked up to the heavens and, noting the vast, billowing, white clouds, asked, “Ed, do you know what day this is? Do dates have a meaning in heaven? Can you possibly know how much I love you and how desperately you are missed; how I long to be taken into your strong arms and held again just for a minute?”
With tear-stained cheeks I wanted to know if he remembered twenty-three years ago, or even two years ago this day.
All day long memories came rushing back. I remembered our first trip to San Francisco and how cold it was as we walked by the steaming crab pots at the Wharf. Ed was so handsome in his Navy uniform. He always took my hand in his, and holding it tight placed both in his overcoat pocket. How comforting the warmth was. I could see him sitting in the cable car, with his boyish grin, a loaf of bread and a crab under each arm. So many times he repeated this procedure.
San Francisco was our playground. I cannot begin to count the number of seminars and scientific meetings we attended there. To learn more was almost a disease with Ed. After each session we always ended our stay by going to the Wharf. A loaf of bread and a fresh crab became symbolic of a wonderful time together. Now that he’s gone, I wonder what mysteries of heaven he is exploring, what avenues are being opened to him. So many unanswered questions … so impatient I am.
Yesterday was a difficult day to get through. In late afternoon a beautiful floral arrangement arrived with a card from the children declaring their love for me. It was heartwarming. As I looked at the two little ones, then at Eddie and Janet and Miriam—then remembered David—I could see a part of Ed in each and realized that my cup runneth over.
Then at the close of day when I opened the door and saw you standing there with a loaf of bread and a package of fresh crab, it was like a direct message. You denied knowing it was a special day. Therefore I felt it was Ed’s way of saying, “Happy anniversary. I do remember.”