Who is the unseen guest at your table, the silent listener to every conversation? The traditional response is Christ; “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest of every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.”
My silent guest list changes for almost every meal. Sometimes the guest is an absent family member, or a far off friend. At other times, I eat in the company of loved ones who are no longer living. Often, it seems to me, my little table is a host to a multitude of absentees. They outnumber those who are physically present. It would be crowded and noisy, if it weren’t for the guests’ gentle, profound, and caring, silence.
This post is dedicated to Eileen at Laughter: Carbonated Grace , and to all those who will be missing a loved one at their table this Christmas.
PS This is my attempt at a flat lay photo. The two flower photos in the centre of the image are not mine. They were a gift from my photographer friend, David Dobbs.
Oh I agree with Andrea … thank you for such a lovely post 🙂
And, as with Andrea, I would be happy to have you as a guest, silent or otherwise. 🙂
With a beautiful arrangement like that I’d love to be your silent guest!
You would be most welcome, silent or otherwise. 🙂
I have been having trouble getting internet service. Now mysteriously it has returned. I love all of these Advent posts. Your notice of a pingback, set me to thinking about silence before I found my way to read your posts. It was very fruitful and now these and some comments have really challenged me to invite my husband and to listen. We had difficulty communicating what was important to us as individuals….our shared values and loved ones weren’t a problem, but we were very different and two days before he died he wanted to tell me something important and got so frustrated and down on himself when I couldn’t understand what he meant. It really upset me and still makes my heart hurt. So, I will work on becoming silent outside and inside and hope I will hear what he was describing. Advent is hope for new life and understanding, so I am very grateful for your posts. Thank you.
Dear Eileen, I thought of you and your husband a lot when I was writing this post. I was so pleased to read your post on silence. I am coming to read it again.
I have to laugh, a bit ruefully. Every Christmas there not only are unseen guests at my table, but also an intruder. It’s rather rude to show up uninvited, but some insist on it. Learning how to turn intruders into guests is quite a trick, but it’s at the heart of what we call hospitality. It’s interesting that ‘hospital’ comes from the same roots. Perhaps hospitality, too, can be healing.
Ah, yes, the ‘intruder’. In the early days of my marriage I struggled with my husband’s ideas about hospitality; ie the expected and unexpected guests all had to be offered food and drink. There always had to be room for one more at the table. Fortunately, for my sanity, the unexpected guests were few and far between, except on the day of our wedding party. We had invited about 50 people, but Gaberone, being a small city, word soon got round, and I think we ended up with about 150 guests, most of whom were unknown to us. Everyone had a wonderful time! And somehow we all had plenty to eat and drink.
I had to grin — cultural expectations do differ, don’t they? Of course, as we’re reminded in the letter to the Hebrews, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
And you’ve reminded me of an experience from my trip back to Liberia in the 1980s. I was in Monrovia when I asked directions of a young Mandingo man. One thing led to another, and he invited me back to his house for a meal with his family. Needless to say, they were a bit surprised to find him showing up with a white woman in tow, but they were hospitable as could be. It certainly gave the neighbors something to talk about.
I can imagine the hospitality and the puzzlement. If I consider blogging as a way of entertaining strangers, ( as most of us were to begin with), I can say I have met angels ( of the human variety which, of course, angels are not really meant to be).
I’m going to invite my mum for a cup of tea. She loved her cup of tea. I keep on talking to her when I feel lonely. We were soulmates until the end(2006) Your photo is lovely, very peaceful and “clean”.
How lovely that will be. Did she like her tea in a particular way or in a particular cup? The teapot in my photo belonged to my grandmother. She is always with me when I set the table with that teapot. Sadly, I no longer remember if she liked black tea or tea with milk. 😦
Always the same cup. She always had only a drop or two milk(in Dutch “n wolkie melk” or little cloud of milk) teaspoon sugar and that was it. At the end she trembled so much that I had to carry our cups(with saucer and a spoon) from the kitchen to our seats in the sitting room. Also the same chair with her feet on an ottoman. Knitting basket on one side of the chair.
Such a precious memory to have. I love the expression ‘little cloud of milk’. 🙂 🙂
I hadn’t met flat lay photography before – definitely something to try. Now how do I include the cat?
That’s a tricky one! My dog is an expert splooter https://www.wideopenpets.com/do-you-know-what-splooting-is-here-are-9-adorable-examples/ so if I could get up high enough I could get a very good flat lay photo of him. 😀
I shall have to watch out for Ziggy in a suitable pose.
🙂 🙂 🙂
This one got to me. My silent guest is my younger brother, who died last year. His way with words was one of the joys of my life.
Was he a writer, like you? I wish you much joy and solace in the silence of his company.
George was an engineer who played the saxophone. Since college, I’ve always thought of him as a Renaissance man.
Ah, what lovely memories you will have. 🙂
Perhaps this is your chance to speak and his to listen? For me it would be my husband who seldom said much, perhaps I didn’t give him time to get his thoughts together?
I was able to speak to him as he was dying, and I think he heard me.
That is a comforting memory.
I certainly haven’t listened as well as I could have, over the years, to friends and family. One of the reasons I enjoy writing and reading comments is that it gives me time to ‘listen’ and time to try to think before I ‘speak’.
Great picture form above, love it!
Thanks, Ute. I was a little bit worried I might topple over while taking it.
🙂 I guess you didn’t as every thing is perfect! 🙂
A wonderful tradition that brings us closer together. Breaking bread is a profound testament to the enduring resilience that love grants humanity and their fellow creatures that share our earth.
Breaking bread together is such a universal and unifying action. At boarding school we were obliged to break a slice of bread into quarters before we could eat it. Unfortunately, no one at the time explained why we had to do it!
You have sparked an interest in researching breaking break into quarters.
Do remember to tell me what you find out. 🙂
Thank you for this thoughtful, gracious Advent post. We will have a few such absent loved ones at our table and thank you for this reminder to always remember them when we gather.
Blessings on those present and past as you gather together at your table.
There is so much I like about this post 🙂 Your flat-lay is very nicely done, and your friend’s photos work beautifully as “place-mats” for you and your unseen guest.
Thanks for the links. I love the idea of a silent dinner as my hearing isn’t great, and I find most dinner parties quite isolating. With chatter around me, I can’t make out any of the conversation and it becomes a prison of noise.
And finally, you have given me an aha moment about my own solitary meals (fairly frequent these days), and the unseen guests I share them with, but only semi-consciously. I will do better to honour them in future.
I share your hearing difficulties when in the company of many. It’s tiring and befuddling. I have probably mentioned that our boarding school meals were taken in silence. It was odd but not burdensome, and, at least, no one could growl at you for talking with your mouth full! Thank you for your kind comment about my flat-lay composition. And I am happy to know about your aha moment. I am sure there are lots of ‘folk’ who would love to be acknowledged at your solitary meals.
A prison of noise……oh yes! Our church women’s group was taught by the minister. He complained to me one day, that when he encouraged discussion we all started talking to the person next to us. I responded, “Of course. We are all hard of hearing and that’s the only person any of us can hear.”
That sounds like a sensible response to me!
Indeed, it does.
A calming and inspiring combination, nicely composed.
Thank you, Sally. So far, preparing for my Advent posts has added a lot of calm to my daily routine.
Your thoughtful links gave me much to read this morning.
In fact, after having read the article about the silent dinner and posting my comment, I noticed a link in the sidebar on the Psychology Today website with the catchy title “Feminists Think Sexist Men Are Sexier than ‘Woke’ Men” and I ended up reading that interesting article as well.
Goodness. That is a link I didn’t espy. This research must be why the algorithms of Instagram direct hosts of hunky men to befriend me. Either that or they are Russian trolls, using the same research!
Or the Russians might not be just any old trolls, but hunky ones. Your words “hosts of hunky men” sent me searching, and Google replied that it found no results for that exact phrase. Happy hunky novelty to you.
Well, that’s a first, then. Perhaps the Russians will catch on and make it go viral.
That makes me happy. I am so thankful to Google for being so quick to find the things I ask for. And, sometimes, at my table, I remember you and Eve and the meals we had together.
Let’s look forward to more of them and the companionship they brought.
Because of this post, I will invite a silent guest, a family member now gone, to sit with me at a dinner sometime soon. I love this idea.
That sounds lovely, Diane. Do you have something belonging to that person which could be placed on the table, as a sign of welcome and remembrance?
That’s a good idea, and will make it more real. Could be the guest will be within fingertip reach.
With today’s post you added a new dimension to your silence quest. I very much like the idea of a silent guest who is present at your home at meal and family time.
Thank you, Peter. I find it a comforting idea.
I like the idea of re-focusing attention, from missing someone to welcoming them as a silent guest. I’m going to work on that perspective. And I like the perspective of your photo, too–did you stand on a chair?
I have been doing it for years but only became conscious of doing so through my Advent Quest. 🙂 I hope re-focusing your attention will bring lots of happiness to your table. Hmm…..as for the photo. I knelt on a
breakfast bar stool. I should have been higher but I didn’t trust myself.
The unseen guest, the silent listener. Present. I love to think of you sitting there with your guests. Having tea. Enjoying each other among the flowers.
We have some good times. 🙂 When I was young, I was allowed to make a cup of tea (by myself) for my father on Sunday morning and to take it to him in bed. I am not sure he really appreciated the early awakening but he always made a fuss over his special Sunday cup of tea. He is often my unseen guest when I make a cup of tea.
I can understand that.