His gray hooded sweatshirt sagged. Was it just comfy, or did it hint at what I saw on my brother-in-law’s face? The months of E.C.’s vigil at my sister’s suffering bedside etched exhaustion and dark shadows around his piercing blue eyes. In May all five of us siblings & spouses flew to Vermont to celebrate Martha’s life.
Before entering the narrowly pitched stairwell of the rural mortuary chapel for the 2:00 p.m. service we gathered at E.C.’s retreat cabin affectionately called “camp.” The previous evening he mentioned a low-key “feel free to stop by” breakfast invitation. His property is just a few miles up the hill from the mortuary. Night turned to day, and that postcard perfect Vermont morning kissed our grief as E.C. welcomed us to his whitewashed cabin for raisin-cinnamon French toast (with, of course, pure syrup tapped from New England maple trees.)
Nothing fancy. No bacon. No whiff of coffee brewing. We took turns lining up at the cast iron griddle where E.C. prepared crisp perfection with just the right ratio of grease-to-toast. I think some of us even waited for recycled ceramic plates out of the sudsy sink. (You know– the kind of flowery plates cabins typically collect.) We ate together scattered in different places– the screened porch, the kitchen table, the picnic table just a few stone steps from the back door.
Death is an ugly intruder. It’s not the way it ought to be. But communal meals are life-giving! Hospitality soothes. It gather us with aromas of love. It comfort us in speechless mystery. It calls us to celebrate the ordinary. Table life creates pauses that shape memories. It prepare us for the day. It refreshes at the end of the day. It remind us of who we are –recipients of daily grace.
Since our French toast morning in Vermont I’ve also “come to the table” for a fish fry with our daughters’ families in Florida, for grilled chicken with Roger’s family in the Colorado Mountains, for oven warm chocolate chip cookies with dear friends in Colorado Springs, for organic pizza with gregarious strangers at a Pizza Farm in Wisconsin, and for mushroom crusted quiche with girlfriends on my Minnesota patio. And oh yes, I can’t forget the cream cheese-graham cracker-tea party with granddaughter Kenley.
The other night Roger and I finished dinner with bites of bold-red watermelon. It was probably still growing on the vine back in May. Time does fly. I’ve wept, questioned, celebrated, played, laughed and reminisced. Days pass and God weaves a story–our Maker cares for us. God sees we are pilgrims in a troubled world. We really do need each other. God our Father provides the abundance of the earth for our benefit and His glory.When we practice hospitality we partner with God’s goodness. Hold on to this truth! It might even change the doldrums of kitchen clean-up into a dance. Or at least a humble prayer of gratitude.
FRIENDS…. Perhaps you already have a copy of my book Table Life. If not, you can find it on amazon. Or contact me at email@example.com and I will ship you a hand signed copy. There are close to 11,000 copies in homes literally around the world. And I am unspeakably grateful that due to the interest of thousands, all the profits go to the rescue ministry of AS OUR OWN in India, Would you consider purchasing another book to give as a gift to someone in memory of my sister Martha? I continue to ask God to create a hospitality reformation. Our hospitality is one of Christ’s ways to build relationships and heal hearts. Grateful, Joanne