Husband & Wife Articles


Cooking for 10

Widower makes dinner a family affair

By Rich Vosler

Life doesn’t always go as planned. Joanne and I were married for 15 years and had just had our ninth child, baby James. He was 6 weeks old when my wife started having incredible abdominal pain. After a visit to the doctor and several tests we learned that she had liver cancer. Despite doing everything possible to cure her, Joanne died nine months later leaving me a single father with nine children ages 11 months to 13 years old. That was six years ago (8/4/05) and not a day goes by that we don't think about her, feel her presence in some form or fashion, or miss her tremendously.


Life as a single parent is difficult, especially with such a large family. All the kids have different personalities and I guess in some ways my 20-plus year career in management has enabled me to mesh these different children together with some success. With that said, it’s been a hard but rewarding journey. It’s hard due to the enormous responsibility and rewarding because I’m closer and more involved with my kids than ever before. During the next several weeks I’d like to share with you some of the rewarding things I’ve learned on this difficult journey.

One of the best parts I’ve learned to love is our meal times together. When Joanne was alive our days revolved around the kitchen. There was always something great cooking or baking. Whether it was homemade Italian sauce with meatballs, bread and pasta from scratch, soups, meatloaf, and everyday dinners, time in the kitchen was great family time. I used to love coming home from work and opening the door and getting knocked over by children and the aroma of that day’s creation. After she died, I wanted to continue those times.

In the beginning, I struggled with getting everything for the meal on the table at the same time. It always seemed that something was ready before everything else or way after everything else. So we’d have “dinner part 1” and then “dinner part 2.” An hour after we’d eat the meat and vegetable, I’d call everyone back for the potatoes! Or we’d be sitting there enjoying the meal and I’d realize that something was still in the oven or on the stove that I forgot about. There’s much wisdom in learning that you can soak a pot for several days and still have to put some elbow grease into getting it clean. Many times, I just bought new pots!

As the kids watched me, they desired to learn and help. So as we moved forward I’d let them help by getting out and adding the ingredients, mixing things up, cracking eggs, flipping pancakes and the like. It gave us the much needed time together to learn and grow and lean on each other during those our dark days.

The other part I loved is that cooking brought me closer to Joanne in my early days of grief. It was almost as if she was dropping ideas into my mind as I worked at the meal. “Why don't you try this? Or add that first instead of last? Here’s something you’ve never tried…” It made me realize that our loved ones who pass on are always with us. And it certainly gave me a new appreciation for all that went into preparing a great meal.

Today I wouldn’t call myself an executive chef, but I can say that I’m much better at preparing meals then I was before. While most of what I do is quick and easy, and I do use a lot of packaged foods for time, quantity and money’s sake, I really enjoy big breakfasts, crock pot meals, and things I can cook and simmer and prepare all day long.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this is that life is very much like putting together a great meal. We have to prepare the ingredients, learn to expect the unexpected, and realize it doesn’t always come out perfect. But with help from above and the people around us, it will come out fine, and we will be properly nourished.

Rich Vosler is a father, businessman, author, coach and speaker. He is a featured blogger for Catholic and recently published his first book The Vosler's Nest: 45 Short Stories of Faith, Hope, and Encouragement. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 8733 of Tabernacle, N.J. His website is