How to Make a Dead Person Feel Less Dead

Pick an old tradition and keep it alive

Kristi Keller
3 min readJul 12, 2022


Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Several months ago, I tested positive for Covid.

While dwelling inside my painful Covid bubble it wasn’t easy to find anything to smile about, never mind get off the couch about. But there was one day when I opened my freezer door and found….

…a chocolate cream pie I’d forgotten I had.

Immediately, I grabbed a fork, the entire pie, and sat on my couch eating it straight from the pan.

Why this pie mattered.

When my son was a young boy he and I had a little tradition between the two of us.

We’d walk to the grocery store and buy a chocolate cream pie. Then we’d come home, grab two forks, and eat it right out of the pan together. Forget the ceremony of using plates. We just ate the whole pie.

This might sound like no big deal to some but to us, it became “the thing we did.”

How do I know it was meaningful to him?

Because more than a decade later he wrote a Mother’s Day song for me and paid a talented singer to call me and sing it over the phone.

The lyrics in that song mentioned our chocolate cream pie ritual.

That particular Mother’s Day, I was away on vacation. My phone rang as I was peacefully driving along a desolate island road in Jamaica.

On the other end of the call, a man introduced himself as someone with a special delivery from my son. He proceeded to sing the song Curtis had written for me.

I cried and smiled at the same time.

It was the best Mother’s Day gift I had ever received.

After Curtis died, I blindly shuffled my way through the first few months, struggling to find meaning in anything. Grocery shopping is at the bottom of the “meaningful list” on a good day, never mind in a grief-induced haze.

But one day I found myself in the frozen foods aisle and I’ll be damned if I didn’t zero in on a chocolate cream pie behind the freezer door.



Kristi Keller

Write like no one is reading, because it might be true. Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.