Briana‘s 32nd birthday would have been tomorrow. Yesterday, her family and friends organised a Memorial Celebration to commemorate her life.

Shankari has posted pics HERE.
Anita @ Married with Dinner has posted her slideshow at Flickr.

When I think of Bri, I think of the spirited, happy person in this pic. It was taken in July – three months before she passed away.

A year ago (November 26, 2007), I was skimming through Briana’s blog. Her latest post was titled Persimmons: Food for the Gods.

I’d eaten persimmons before, but never the Hachiya variety which she had been extolling. I read the first paragraph, saw the lovely pics, and picked up a couple of them on my next visit to the market. They felt ripe. Jai and I took a bite each from the first one we cut up and spat it out. They were nasty!

I went back to Bri’s post and read the whole thing. I’d missed the bit where she said it needed to be “fall-apart ripe”. If it wasn’t, it would leave an “ass-puckeringly awful astringent experience on your tongue.”

Hachiya Persimmons

I hadn’t waited until they seemed soft, pulpy and borderline rotten – which is when the flesh turns sweet and ‘eat-with-a spoon’ silken.

From then on, I learnt to be attentive and not to skip paragraphs while reading her posts. She championed pure, natural, chemical-free ingredients, grown locally. She doggedly ensured that she knew where almost everything on her plate came from. She treated the farmers who produced them with appreciation, care and respect.

Through her blog, she introduced us to local producers and chefs. Some of them wrote to us during the fundraiser wishing to donate and telling us how much she meant to them.

I invited her to be a judge for the April edition of CLICK. She accepted … and disappeared from the blogosphere. She came back with some chilling news: her cancer had reappeared and spread.

During the next six months, I met her once, spoke to her twice, and exchanged a dozen or so e-mails. It was a brief interaction, but I can honestly say we forged a deep and close connection. She embodied a certain wisdom and spirituality that made each of my interactions with her joyous and uplifting. She emanated a deep affection for all life forms in the cosmos and was quick to recognize the beauty, wonder and creativity in its various facets.

She was incredibly perceptive. I remember asking Bri if she would like me to send her some music. I told her that I had a collection of Indian classical music – two types, North and South Indian. Was she familiar with them? She said, “Not really, but I’ve noticed that the music in the sag paneer place is different from that in the masala dosa place.”

I laughed and told her she needed to get well soon, so that we could go out and have some fun. Bri was a butterfly with a broken wing who didn’t let her physical constraints limit her imagination or the scope of her dreams.

She said, “Bee, I have a plan. I’ll come to Boise and then the two of us can go on a blog buddy tour around the world to thank and visit with everyone who contributed to my treatment in various ways.”

I said, “Yeah, we have buddies in some really pretty places.”

“New Zealand?”

“Check.”

“Greece?”

Check.

“What about Hawaii?”

“Check”.

“You are good,” she laughed. Suddenly her voice turned serious.

“Who was it from Hawaii? I do not recall thanking that person on his/her blog.”

As soon we finished the conversation, I sent her the link. Later that day, she made sure to visit Manju’s blog and leave a thank you note.

Here’s what she said:

Thank you so much for your support, Manju. I was just telling Bee that I would love to take a tour of blogging friends when I am healthy and strong, and mentioned that I wish I had blogging friends in Hawaii. Lo and behold, she sent me a link to your site. I love the layout, and am so grateful for your publicity of the fundraiser.

When I was sick the first time, I was able to get weekly Reiki treatments that really helped me get through all the yucky Western stuff. Reiki is such a noble medicine.

She also had long-term plans which she dared to harbour and share with me. I was always astounded by her strength and humanity.

Cynthe (her mother-in-law) would update me about Bri’s condition from time to time. I would send Bri e-mails which Marc (her husband) read out to her. Her neck was in a cast and she couldn’t sit at the computer. She couldn’t respond to most e-mails, but when she did (through Marc), it was because she intuitively knew that the person at the other end needed comforting.

On August 7, she was told by her oncologist that she needed to look into hospice as there was nothing more they could do. I sent her an e-mail. She responded:

“The western mind with all its doubts can be so compelling sometimes, but I don’t buy into her perspective” and outlined the pain relief options she meant to pursue.

It sounds strange and selfish to say this, but through her darkest hours, Bri knew how to reach out and assuage the pain of those around her.

When I think of Bri, and it is often, I am filled with joy and gratitude. Even though the circumstances of our interaction were clouded in uncertainty and sorrow, we shared many laughs. Each time I bite into a Hachiya persimmon or eat a masala dosa, I will remember her bright smile and tinkling laughter. There’s no other way she would have liked it.

Bri died on October 27. That week, I was walking around my yard and smelt the heady fragrance of English lavender.

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume. ~ Jean de Boufflers

I wanted to capture and preserve the aroma of lavender, just as Bri had captured the essence of roses in her Ecstatic Organic Rose Vanilla Ice Cream.

In that post she explained how pure rose extract involves a process requiring steam distillation and differs from commercially available rose water.

It is possible to make steam distilled rose extract at home. Rose extract made this way is much more intense (and expensive) than rose water or oil infused with roses.

No matter which flower you use, make sure it’s organic. We use an organic fertiliser once a year on our lavender plants and avoid chemical sprays or pesticides. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about our roses. We treat them yearly with a systemic insecticide, else in spring the blooms get overrun by thrips.

I set out to make lavender oil with my English lavender blossoms – not essential oil (as in lavender extract), but regular oil infused with the fragrance of lavender. English lavender is the most fragrant of them all and we have two varieties – Hidcote and Munstead. It’s quite simple, really.

Hidcote Lavender

1. Cut off the lavender stalks and leave them standing erect in a bowl (like you would keep them in a vase) in a dark room or closet for a day or two until they air-dry a bit.

2. Pull out the flowers from the stalks, bruise them lightly with your fingers to extract the essential oils, and place them in a clean, dry clear glass bottle. Try and ensure that the bottle is the right size – after you put the flowers in, there should not be too much of an air gap between the flowers and the lid.

3. Pour oil into the bottle – just enough to cover the blossoms. I like to use an oil with a neutral taste and smell, like light olive oil, safflower oil or grape seed oil, preferably organic.

4. Put the lid on, shake gently and leave the bottle to sit in a sunny spot for between 48 hours to a week, depending on how strong you want it. It wasn’t strong enough the first time, so I strained the oil out (make sure to squeeze the flowers with the back of a spoon to extract it all), then added a new batch of flowers to the oil and kept it for another week.

5. When the oil smells strong enough, strain it out and store in a dark bottle in a cool place. It should last about 6 months.

Lavender Oil

USES
1. As a flavouring, in lieu of vanilla extract.

Some previously posted recipes with lavender:
Blueberry-Lavender Coffeecake
Lavender-infused Chocolate Pudding
Baked Strawberries with Lavender and Rosemary

or in ice cream, the way Bri used rose extract.

2. A few drops can be used to scent your bath water. It is also an excellent body oil.

3. I use a few drops to scent my all-purpose cleaner. (We use Simple Green, which is odourless.)

4. This oil can be used to perfume homemade bath soaps or candles.

5. Dab a few drops of scented oil on cotton balls and place them in your linen closet. Sometimes I throw in a damp cloth with a few drops of scented oil with my dryer load. It generates steam and perfumes the whole load.

Organic scented oils are a great holiday gift. Lavender oil is our entry for Homemade Christmas Gifts – an event organised by Happy Cook @ My Kitchen Treasures.

- Bee

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29 Comments

  1. sunita says:

    Oh, dear Bee, that was a such a sweet post. Yes, people like Briana, who have the courage to smile in the face of excruciating pain are rare enough and truly inspiring.

  2. Bharti says:

    A touching post and ode to your friendship. It made me smile and cry at the same time.

  3. Peter G says:

    A beautiful tribute to Bri and the wonderful friendship you shared.

  4. Kalai says:

    What bittersweet memories you’ve shared with all of us. Thank you for the inspiration.

  5. shankari says:

    A wonderful post as always Bee. Thank you for giving me the gift of friendship with Bri.

    The steps involved in making the lavender oil is simple..really really simple and makes a wonderful gift.

  6. Soma says:

    All I could do when I read your post was sit & cry. It seems like the best people always need to go away.

  7. maryann says:

    I have no words but wanted to leave you a comment so you knew I was here.

  8. Nags says:

    That was a very touching post, well written.

  9. Anjali says:

    Scents of friendship that will linger. Thoughtful post.

  10. Nirmala says:

    You moved my heart Bee…and Briana too. She lives in the memories and all the sweet things she has given to this world.

  11. Manggy says:

    Thank you for this touching tribute, Bee. It reminds me of this passage I love from The Little Prince:
    So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–
    “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
    “It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
    “Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
    “But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
    “Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
    “Then it has done you no good at all!”
    “It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

    Now persimmons and masala dosa are your wheat fields :)

  12. Happy Cook says:

    You have writen the post so beautifullly. I do rhink we all feel closer to bri maybe because of her beautiful smile.
    I love the way she explained dosa place and saad paner place. I should make this oil then with rose especially to use as a body oil as i have such a dry skin, i have grape seed oil, which i have not opend up yet. Now just have to find from where i can get organic rose.
    Thankyou for sending this wonderul lavener oil.

  13. arundati says:

    lovely post bee…

  14. Deb says:

    This post was filled with the lovely perfume of your shared time together on this earth with your gently strong Bri. I am sure that wherever Bri’s essence is now, she is smiling with her own remembrance.

    A question about the essential oil. If you could not find organic roses but wished to use the oil only to scent your cleaning product or laundry, not consuming it or cooking with it – would using non-organic sources be advisable?

    sure, use anything you have on hand.

  15. bhanu says:

    Absolutely heart touching and poignant post.

  16. OhioMom says:

    What a touching post…

  17. PG says:

    A beautiful post. What a gem of a person she was. Thank you for sharing yours thoughts with us!

  18. manju says:

    What a lovely tribute, Bee, it had me smiling through my tears. I always wondered how you knew Bri so well. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. Your gift to her of the book of laughter was so telling of your insight into healing.

    I will be offering Reiki again on the last day of the year to anyone who wishes to be a part of it. I hope you will join me again this year.

  19. Cham says:

    Very thoughtful post… As you associated so many things, Bri remains alive in (y)our memories.
    Wonderful homemade gift.

  20. farida says:

    Our birthdays with Bri are only 2 days apart and I would have wanted so much for her to celebrate hers too… What a wonderful tribute to your friend. It must be comforting for her family to know that Bri is loved, missed and remembered.

  21. Manasi says:

    A Wonderful Tribute!
    I remember buing this variety of persimmons once and spiting out he first bite! eew! I thought!
    Never thought making scented oil was as simple! Thank U!

  22. shilpa says:

    Thats a very touching post Bee.

  23. arfi says:

    mmm… I should be looking around for English lavender for I only grow French variety. What a lovely thought of Bri. Happy holidays, Bee.

  24. Navita Hakim says:

    Bee,
    I am new here…to blogosphere and to this haven of urs.
    Have missed knowing Bri…but I want to know you. The passionate friednship you shared with her transcends through, to your reader…me.
    Loved this place and will be back for more. I am going to follow your blog :) .
    You must get this often, but to re-iterate…you have a gift !

  25. InjiPennu says:

    Bee whenever I read your post about Bri, I skip it in fear of what the news might be. I saw your fundraising and pushed it off my mind. I didn’t want to get involved. This is the first post I read it full about her. I still don’t have the courage to go back and read the other posts or even visit Bri’s blogs.
    I don’t know to say anything else other than just feeling to squeeze your hand, real hard. I wish you didn’t have to write this post in past tense.

  26. Seeing her in that photo just makes it so hard to believe she is no longer with her. Thank you for a beautiful remembrance, dear Bee.

  27. Alka says:

    This is one warm post in chills of harsh life, and i am sure Bri will live forever between us thru your memories and bytes
    The Fragrance of ur friendship with Bri surely reached us thru your words :-)

  28. Aparna says:

    Friendships like these are to be treasured. Bri may not be here physically, but she is very much alive in the memories of her friends and family.

  29. Dee says:

    Bee, I came here bcos I was browsing my emails and i saw an email sent by marc thanking us for contributing to the fundraiser , the second time i contributed , they remembered and mentioned it ! I just wish she was here today.. full of life , happy is what I remember of her. I hope and pray she is at peace. I got a little teary eyed reading this post.



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