by Marshall Dunn
“When we sit down at the table to eat, the void of grief sets in. There’s something about sitting around the table and having to look one another in the eye. The realness of the loss hasn’t dissipated. If anything, it has intensified. Time heals some wounds, but not all. And time not addressing you, Mitch, is the biggest and deepest wound. Will we ever fully recover from you? Right now that’s hard to fathom.
There’s no waiting until everyone has sat down. People begin to pick at their plates as soon as they’re on the table. There’s a mountain of food, but we all think we might starve. It’s like we’re kids again, fighting for the last sausage, piece of schnitzel, or extra mashed potatoes. In the rush we forget what we’re here for. We forget the deeper meaning of these lunches and time together. They are an opportunity for a moment of silence or prayer. I know it would help in the healing process. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and significant. I want to eat my food, but I also long for this moment.
Dad is the leader of this family and a great leader he is, the best in fact, but even the best need help sometimes. In the pit of my stomach I hear a voice tell me to take charge of the table and speak. I feel the lump in my throat as the thought of what I want to say bounces between my temples. I stumble, I fumble, I can’t. I’ve taken on your, “I can’t,” Mitch. I can, but I freeze and then dive into my food like it’s my last meal. I want to propose a toast. I want to honor and remember. I want to go around the table and hear memories. I want to start the process. I know it will lighten Dad’s heart and shine a light for all of us. This is my daydream, Mitch at every lunch. I’m not brave enough. I want to be brave enough. Instead I’m always hungover. I look down at the rug. I feel toxic.