This morning I read a post on social media from someone who lives alone, is researching theology of communion as table fellowship, and has now eaten almost 200 meals alone since Lockdown began. I did a quick count back - the last time I shared a physical table with anyone was Friday 13th March, a full week before Lockdown. I had invited a group of church folk for a meal, a regular practice of mine, and because of the guidelines in place at the time had stressed that anyone even the least bit unwell should stay away.
Since then I have eaten more than 200 meals alone. That's salutary only in so far as it is normal for so many people who live alone. It's part of the reason that our Coffee Club began a practice of staying on for lunch, allowing those of us who live alone the treat of company and no cooking or washing up once a week!
Over the past weeks, I have been far more intentional about meal times than ever before. I am a bit of the 'food is fuel' mindset, often gobbling my meals at me desk or standing up. It's only ever really been 'food is pleasure' when I do it with others. But for now I can't do it with others, so I make more effort - witness the photo from Monday's Day Off breakfast treat, table laid, food set out, book ready to read (a good one btw).
Intentionality seems to be my 'go to' word at the moment - I am being much more deliberate, slowing down, making more of everything, and that has to be a good thing.
I have no photos of the meal on 13th March, but I know who was there, what we ate, how laughter rang in the air, and anxiety bubbled beneath the surface, at least for some of my guests. It is a precious memory, one of the 'last suppers and other rememberings' that are part of my life.
As I've pondered all this, and more, I've recalled the last meal I ate in Northampton, after clearing my mum's flat: I went to Debenham's cafe (now I believe closed down)where I ordered a strawberry tart and a pot of tea. It was a sunny day, the strawberries were sweet, the tea good and hot, I can picture myself sat at the table by the wall. Out of that experience I wrote this (now published) reflection:
Whenever you do this, remember me:
In broken bread and poured out wine -
Or pots of tea and strawberry flans -
Take a moment to pause
Deliberately call to mind this moment
And what it meant
Live the memory
Re-live the memory
Remember the meaning
Re-member the meaning
Because every time you do
You restore the moment,
Renew the promise
Recreate the meaning
Until the day when all things are made anew
In God’s Kingdom of Shalom.