I’ve been taking notes at funerals. This is what I’ve learned. Those who don’t really know the deceased usually get up and preach a sermon. On the other hand, when the speaker truly loves the departed their remarks generally fall into two categories. Category #1. This person fed my body. You’d be surprised how many funeral talks discuss what delicious food the deceased person prepared and served. Apparently feeding people leaves a genuinely lasting impression. Category #2. This person fed my soul. Invariably the speaker will tell the congregation a few experiences about how the deceased impacted their life.
In the past I used to believe that if people didn’t have to eat, my life would be so much better. But I’ve been reconsidering that mind set lately. I’ve decided that if we didn’t have to eat every few hours, we’d lose our reason to gather. I now believe that physical hunger is God’s secret gift to us – the daily thirst that keeps those who care about each other coming back for more.
As a newlywed, if someone had told me how much of my life would be spent shopping for food then preparing and cleaning up after meals, I wouldn’t have believed them. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As the mother of ten children, I’ve often found myself wondering when this feeding frenzy will end. I’ve dreamed about what my life would be like when my family looked at me and saw a tired woman instead of Sunday dinner.
Mothers of newborns feel like morphed human pacifiers. Mothers of toddlers long for the day when eating a family meal won’t require rain coats and fire truck hoses for clean up. Mothers of school age children hear themselves spouting phrases like, “You don’t like that? Eat it anyway. There are children starving in China.” Mothers of teenagers watch hopelessly as their offspring inhale colossal quantities of everything edible on the premises. Mothers of married children are not surprised when their growing posterity comes home to visit - precisely at dinner hour. I’ve decided we can find frustration and resentment with all this eating business or we can unlock the secret and start having fun at our own banquet.
What if universal hunger is the biggest reason we stay connected? What if feeding those we love was not a daily drudgery but a pleasure? If we were not required to feed our newborns every few hours day and night, would we develop that tender bond that can never be broken? If we didn’t prepare a warm meal every evening for our family, would we ever get together and talk to each other? The gift of hunger actually keeps those we love coming back to be fed again and again at our table.
In my early days of mothering I used to say, “All I do all day long is feed one end of these kids and clean up other. Nothing I do really matters.” Now I deeply respect people who choose to feed people. For I understand that nourishing my family is one essential way to show my love. I’ve learned that when we serve with joyfulness, we not only give food to bodies - we also nurture spirits. Now I choose to focus more on the sustenance I have to offer than what family members decide to take away from my buffet.
Someday I hope those I have lived with and cared for will be able to say, “She fed me – both my body and my soul.”