I grew up in a family that held hands to share ‘grace’ before each of our evening meals. Like many people, we have stories about the big meals growing cold because of the length of this prayer on special holidays.
As a young person, I was often aware of the unimportant things during grace – like why do I have to hold my brother’s hand, and how far away was I sitting from the mashed potatoes, and would my mom be quietly crying at the Amen.
Marc and I continued this tradition with our family especially around holidays. ‘Prayer-leading’ was shared between the two of us. Sometimes we tried to include the kids by forcing them to come up with something they were thankful for or something they hoped for. Sometimes I was crying before the prayer would even start, heart full that we were together in such safe abundance and love. And we all had our eye on the mashed potatoes.
I watched as the kids had their awkward feelings of participation and observation – trusting that they someday will be able to tease out the pause and the presence of this practice from the sheer religiosity.
In this pause before the feast, I invite my memories and my hopes. I open myself to loving and being loved. I stand firmly and try to hold not just the people at my table, but the parade of people that has filled my life. Gratitude and awareness leads to an aching overflow of hope.
This year there will be three of us (and two kittens) at the table. We will light candles and hold hands. We will invite those who are absent from us into our hearts as we pause with love and gratitude. I will still hope that I ‘m positioned near the mashed potatoes. I will cry.
It has been an extraordinary year – of scrapes and bruises, of get ups and keep goings, of holding and being held, of being weak so that I know what it means to be strong. We have come to the end of ourselves and our lives have expanded.
Commonly, the end of the holiday meal includes comments about elastic waist bands on our pants. As I think about being filled to overflowing on Thursday, it comes from that space held before the meal. Know that when I pause on Thursday, when I my heart opens, I will remember you. I will give thanks and send love.
Be kind to folks with wet eyes at your table.
And pass the mashed potatoes.
The next five episodes of Sprout will focus on using a ‘Wheel of Life’ to help us assess 2023 and to prepare for 2024. I’m excited to roll out this series and encourage you to forward along the emails or invite friends to subscribe. In my opinion, doing this kind of work is better with those we love and trust.