A Place at the Table

Reserving a seat or setting a table for loved ones who have passed is a tradition for some. This is a cherished and enduring custom in many families, cultures, and communities worldwide. Western culture often views death as fearful, silent, and off-limits in conversation. These feelings are not without cause. Death is an unknowable plane, a hidden place bordering our lives. These coordinates on the universal map of mortality are a place we cannot go if we wish to return. As such, it is a formidable adversary. However, there is healing to be found in welcoming your beloved dead back into your life. For me, saving a seat is an act of remembrance and reverence. The water I drink at a table shared with the dead is a healing elixir, a fortification of the self and protection against the eerie, lingering fog of grief.

The table does not need to be something wooden with four legs. Including your loved ones who have passed in conversation can serve as a table just as well as a tangible surface. Speaking of the dead is more than fleeting, simple remembrance. A conversation need not be somber, or sad - it can be a celebration of someone's unique existence in sound and color. Talking can also be a way to navigate the waters where the disparate oceans of resentment and grief often meet. Developing a personal practice of frequenting memories offers the dead a thriving place in your heart. Discussing this practice with others can help to destigmatize end-of-life care and grieving in your community and family spaces.

“A Place At The Table” is a requiem - a visual marker of the ceremonies I perform for my dead loved ones. It is also Memento Mori,  a Latin phrase that means “remember that you must die.” When you recall that you will someday be the ghost in the room yourself, how do you want your life and legacy to be remembered? Lamented sharply for a time and then forgotten to the numbing winds of grief? or mourned, but remembered and cherished. Pitchers were often used in classical still life to indicate hospitality. This is representative here of hospitality for the dead. This cup and pitcher may be empty, but they still signal that our loved ones are welcome at the table anytime and will always have a place of honor, even in death

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