Yesterday I ate Raclette for the first time. If you, like me, had lived a life without knowing about this eating experience let me briefly enlighten you. It is a Swiss dish with potatoes, cheese, pickles and other side dishes. Raclette cheese is melted and then poured over the potatoes and repeated. I was informed that a perfect bite includes a bit of potatoes, cheese, pickle, and individual seasoning. They were correct, it is a tasty dish. How I found myself eating Raclette is another story and one founded in Christian community.
My dear friend Gini died two days before Christmas, just four days shy of her 96th birthday. The last days were a mix of sadness and joy as it was clear she was near the end and her body was shutting down. Thankfully she was not in pain. The important words had been said and I think that is the story of much of Gini’s life. She had a gift not only to listen but to give wise council through conversation, words of scripture, and writing. Gini was known to engage in the hard conversations. She would sometimes preface a hard conversation with knowing she might lose her friendship over saying what was on her heart but was willing to risk it. I personally believe it only made her relationships deeper. She also loved to have discussions about the arts and culture and always where faith intersects with them.
I found myself the past couple of days spending time with Gini’s friends from her years as a staff member at the L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Reminiscing included snowy days, good conversations, years of correspondence, and where they and their friend’s journeys have taken them. These were glimpses of conversations that could go on for hours. There were discussions of social justice, health care, economics, science, art and aging all through a lens of faith. I was welcomed into this community over the past few days and for that I am profoundly grateful as it has helped the grieving and healing.
What I don’t want to miss is how not only this community brought me into their fold but also how I might do that for others. It can be so difficult at times feeling welcome and moving from outsider to feeling welcome and even an insider. Though I didn’t live through those “hippie” years with them (their words) they included me in the stories and provided me with the back stories. They shared with me the experiences that they had together on the hills in Switzerland telling me of more friends who would offer hospitality to me that also knew our dear Gini. They shared food, warmth, and hospitality.
There was a moment when I realized all of these individuals are single, some always and some more recently. This made the Raclette experience even more powerful. Raclette is a community eating experience the grills are designed for many to participate. I am thankful that they don’t seem to make Raclette grills for one and it seems a metaphor for how we are to live life, in community.