Facebook can be such a poignant picture of life. My news feed contains the trivial mixed in with the interesting, the joyous mixed with the tragedy. This last weekend was no different. Alongside trivial comments on one day came the heartbreaking news that one of my husband’s former students slipped near a rushing river and was swept away from his friends and brother. While they had hoped that he would be able to get out alive, search parties were unable to locate him. At this point he is presumed dead.
My heart hurts greatly for his family. We have also sustained great loss in my little family. My first daughter passed away at 2 months and my husband’s mother passed away recently. Losses like these change your perspective. To take the time out of your day to cuddle with your children, to kiss them, to hold your husband close, to read to your children while dust gathers and laundry piles up are very important parts of my day. I don’t take the days I have with my children and my family and my friends lightly.
In the midst of great personal loss, or the loss of others, it can be hard to be motivated to speak or write about food. When we first heard this sad news, I told my husband that I felt like one of the projects I needed to work on was “stupid” and was upset that I had to focus on something that seemed so trivial in the light of this tragedy.
Food is so earthly, and transient, and seemingly unimportant in the shadow of death. Yet, I know that when you are going through even the greatest of life’s trials, food is a bare necessity. When the heart hurts and aches, the stomach still rumbles. The need for food is always present. When you have no interest in food for its taste, your body still needs it to live. We think that we are so strong, so invincible, and so ready to take on the world. Yet, we are utterly dependent on food, for without it we die. We are so much more fragile then we think. One slip at a riverbank, one crash on the freeway, so many days without food, and our life is gone.
It is strange to feel your heart breaking over the loss of a loved one yet to see the world continue around you. Your loss is so devastating — it seems like it should rock the world. But only yours, and perhaps a few around you are so deeply affected. Mothers and fathers continue to put their children to bed, couples continue to bicker, dinner is burnt and moods are black, and that floor still needs to be swept.
In a world without modern conveniences, the gathering of neighbors and family to bring food (sustenance) to a grieving family was necessary to relieve them for a short while of the daily grind. Now, we still offer food to those grieving. Because even if one among them has lost a life, their lives still continue. Their need of food is still here.
While I often wish for a place to write about more than “just food,” our basic need of food is an overwhelming, often undervalued aspect of our lives. Through the good times, through the bad, through the trials, through the joys, through the days of birth, and the sadness of loss, food is needed.
In the end, I’ve concluded that food is important because my relationships are important. Food to nourish and build up my family, food to share at the table of hospitality, food as a present to give as an example of my love. Yes, life is more than food. But life is never without it for long.
While my writing continues to focus on food, the daily need of it intertwines with changing circumstances, growing children, spiritual growth, relationships, moves across town and across country, graduations, pregnancies, walks in the park, and sick days in bed. Food is the fuel for the race of life, it is comfort found in a cup of hot broth when sick, and pleasure enjoyed in chocolate and fresh clams.
This wonderful, beautiful world, so full of misery and pain, is overflowing with people who hunger for food for both body and soul. Our friend, Joshua, who met his Creator this weekend, filled his heart with food for the soul. His blog shows a boy growing into a man, who thought deep thoughts and really cared.
And even while I dish up soup and toast bread and focus on the many trivial but necessary things in this life, I think of him, and my daughter, and my mother-in-law who can enjoy food, enjoy fellowship and enjoy rushing rivers without the danger and pain of this world.
Our life continues here for now, and until we also reach the end of our days, food will be part of it. And I will probably keep talking about it, too. While I can occasionally resent the fact that food is something I have to write about when faced with other life issues, I am thankful that food is a constant reminder of the fragility of life. With every meal, I am reminded that life is precious. I am reminded to live my life how I should.