My friend Joan's husband came for dinner. As I set the table, the place next to his was conspicuously empty. Joan should be here. Why did we never invite the two of them to a meal? Too busy and too overwhelmed with life. That's the only excuse I can come up with. My sad reason for not doing many things.
This man brings me gluten-free oat bran muffins. I am surprised he knows about these. Joan made them for me when I was first diagnosed with celiac and she gave me the recipe years ago. I coax the muffins from the tin, still warm, and arrange them on a plate. It's as if Joan has given them to me. My heart is heavy.
Joan's husband and Fred are on the deck grilling. I cut a zucchini into round disks, fruit heavy with fullness of life, fresh picked. As I dip them into beaten egg and crumbs, I pause, startled. God is here. Here in the mundane, in my ordinary kitchen and my ordinary life. He's here in the deep well of grief and he transfigures simple acts into beauty. His bounty from our meager garden can nourish an empty soul. I reach for one soft, round muffin and eat it now. The offering is sweet and filling. Sacred food.
The bowls and plates for the meal cover the empty spot at the table. We surround Joan's husband with food and love.