The secret ingredient


Coca-Cola has its closely guarded classic formula.  KFC has its 11 herbs and spices.  My Grandma’s famous noodles are made without a written recipe.  Each one has created a long-lasting legacy based on “the secret ingredient.”  The magic that holds it together… the one thing you can’t do without.  But what’s the secret ingredient that holds a family together?  Love?  Loyalty?  Commitment?  The mix surely includes all of these things… but in my opinion, the greatest is love. 

Our family just said goodbye to a cornerstone of unconditional love, my grandmother Kathrine Glisan.  For over 90 years, she exemplified a kind of love that’s hard to find anywhere else:

– A hard-working farm wife who made clothes for her kids and never let them feel they were poor. 
– A rare combination of tough and gentle that you had to experience first-hand to understand.
– A generous soul who always helped others first, and understood that a sense of humor would help you make friends.
– An optimist who always believed in a better day coming tomorrow.

I’m very sad to see her go, but I celebrate what she put in motion.  The unconditional love she showed to her children is the secret ingredient, and it has already been passed down to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  The good news about our family is you don’t even have to be born into the bloodline to benefit.  You can marry into it, be adopted into it, or just be a friend who’s lucky enough to tag along at a reunion.

There are plenty of things that can pull a family apart:  tragic accidents, financial pressures, clashes over control, and personal pride.  But if you’ve got the secret ingredient, the family stays intact.   It may be measured in different amounts and demonstrated in different ways, but love is the foundation for the family that stays together.  If you look around at your extended family and see a love vacuum, why not fill it?   Maybe it’s time you reached out to a family member you lost touch with, or resolved a grudge that’s gone on way too long?  All you have to do to achieve unconditional love… is to remove the conditions.

I celebrate the secret ingredient in my family, and hope that you find it in yours too.  It really is the one thing you shouldn’t do without.

Explore posts in the same categories: Communication, Motivation

7 Comments on “The secret ingredient”

  1. David,
    I feel very fortunate that I have learned some things about your amazing grandmother… and even more so that I can call you my friend. Having also met your mother, it is no coincidence that you turned out to be the Man that you are… with those two powerful female role-models in your Life. Thanks for sharing your heart & soul.

  2. Patricia Cox Says:

    This is great! My favorite phrase,”remove the conditions”. Sadly, many folks believe that there is a limited amount of love to go around in a family and in a community,and it is based on a belief that they are loved because of external factors such as having money or status or knowing the right people.
    If people are willing to release this belief and can see the abundance of love that comes from removing that “limited belief” it changes so many factors and dynamics in their life.

    It also helps to release so many unrealistic expectations that tears marriages,families and communities apart.


  3. Steve Says:

    Per my comment about “living 90 years”, its amazing how time can shape us, especially to those who are willing to persevere. Your grandmother sounds like she did just that and more!
    Unconditional love is truly a life giving ingredient and your grandmother seems to have lived it.
    May we all learn, in time, to love unconditionaly!

  4. Jan Sysmans Says:


    I agree on the Love part. A meal that is made with Love tastes soo much better than and meal made because it’s a chore. We had a big dinner party a couple years ago with family, neighbors and friends. Lots of food and lots of wine. At one point one during dinner, the quality of the food came up and people were wondering what is was that made it taste so good. My dad (my parents were visiting from Belgium) simply said: “Because it was made with Love”. We were all a bit dumbstruck but very quickly all agreed.

    Love is the secret ingredient. A love for cooking, a love for eating and a love for the people with whom you are sharing the food.

  5. Peggy Says:

    I was lucky enough to have someone in my life very much like your grandmother. Unfortunately it wasnt until I married my husband. His father god rest his soul knew no strangers and everyone was family. He grew up as an only child of Russia immigrants. He never met any of his relatives. So as an adult he wanted as much family around as he could and he loved each and every one of them. When I married into the family my entire family became his family he treated my children from my previous marriage as his own. You never heard a unkind word come from his mouth and he was the most selfless and loving person I have ever known. If you ever wanted to talk or get advise you would go to him and walk away feeling better. He was my biggest fan and I miss him very much as I am sure you miss your grandmother! Make sure your children have pictures of their great grandmother and write down special memories they had with her so they can pass those special memories of their greatgrandmother on to their children. I am sorry for your loss!

  6. Merrill Says:

    I’m reminded of the Kung Fu Panda’s secret ingredient to the secret ingredient soup. Things are special because we make them special. And when it comes to relationships, I can tell that your grandmother’s secret was not lost on you!


  7. John Szabo Says:

    I really liked this story David!
    I anticipate your eventual book of your best stories.

    John Szabo

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