Table for One

After my Mom died, Dad often ate dinner alone at the K&W in Chapel Hill.  He was a very social guy and it kind of broke my heart thinking about him sitting alone.  He probably chatted up the women serving chicken livers and chocolate pudding.  But then he would have taken a seat by himself.  He wouldn’t have brought a book to read and he certainly didn’t have a cell phone to read his email.  It makes me feel sad to think of him at a table for one.

HH and I are on the final stretch of living without each other and – just like running a marathon – we are at the point when it’s especially tough.  Living without your person is really hard.  Really hard.

I frankly enjoy eating alone in a restaurant because it’s a respite from meetings and wall to wall phone calls.  And I’m not having to cook or clean for myself.  At least for now, it’s comforting to have someone bring me sweet tea.

I once preached a sermon called Eating Alone for a communion service and I noted that – when we share in The Lord’s Supper together – we are feasting with those who are present and those who are no longer with us – the saints who’ve gone before us.  One never celebrates communion alone.

When I eat alone in a restaurant, I don’t feel alone at all.  Sometimes people at neighboring tables ask if I’d like to join them, and honestly, I don’t want to.  I need quiet time when nobody’s talking.  I find comfort in that table for one.

Loneliness is a weird experience.  I have been told many times that professional ministry is lonely and that mid-council ministry is especially lonely, but I have not found this to be true. I can’t share what’s going on with our pastors and congregations, except to share it with God who already knows.  And that’s all I need.

What I also need is my person.  HH moves to this time zone in April, and it’s a bittersweet move.  He is leaving a fantastic congregation in a wonderful place.  He is entering into the unknown in that we are hoping for a new fantastic congregation in a different wonderful place – but we don’t know where that is yet.

I will continue to eat alone sometimes and that will be fine.  But I look forward to setting a table for two at least once a day in just a couple more months.

Here’s to the people sitting at table for one. Maybe they’d like company.  Maybe they wouldn’t.  But try to notice them.  They might be missing their person.

Image is Automat by William Hopper (1927) Des Moines Art Center.

3 responses to “Table for One

  1. This is so interesting! For nearly forty years I had a semi-phobia about eating alone. It most likely started in middle school, where I was new to the school and trying (always failing) to be accepted. We had split lunches, and I, coming in for the second shift, would sit at a table of first-shift girls I desperately wanted to be my friends. They ignored me, and soon left. The feeling of rejection was always under the surface when I had to eat alone (or even in a group eating in contemplative silence) until seminary, when I knew I had to get over it and would force myself to sit with people who hadn’t invited me and insist to myself that I was welcome (which I was, of course), and even initiate conversation. It still doesn’t come naturally. On the other hand, I’ve also learned to appreciate eating alone, although it’s hard to do without having something to read–telling the world I’m eating alone on purpose, not because no one wants my company.

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  2. Reading what you said about your dad reminds me of my Aunt Joem. She has been alone now since April 2015 when my Uncle Pat died. In her case eating alone sometimes does not happen because her depression takes over. She often does not cook for herself. My sister and I live together just down the road. We make enough at dinner that we send the left overs to Aunt Joem. Part of our way of checking in on her everyday.

    I often eat alone. With my sister and my different schedules (I work day, she works nights) we only see each other on her days off. I still often fix a meal for 3. That way my sister can either eat it when she gets home or take it with her. I find that if I eat alone I have time to hear God’s voice speak to me. However, I often miss my sister being around to talk to her.

    I like the part about the Lord’s Supper. I never thought about how those gone before us are with us when we take part in it. I remember when my niece Kaylee was 4 (she died at age 5) I explained to her about how special Communion was. I remember her looking up at me with a smile and telling me that Jesus was with us taking part.

    Being alone is not a bad thing. It is a part of life and we need to embrace it. I have come to realize that being alone means that I have more time to spend with God.

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