The Power of Food

So tonight I’m eating, or rather relishing, a dish my mum dropped off for me before she went on holidays – its date slice. It is my version of a last supper…

My dad had been dying of cancer for 3 years, he hadn’t eaten in what seemed like weeks, he was in palliative care – saying goodbye to an endless cue of visitors. It was on this day, the day before his death, I went into a baking frenzy – only 19 years old, I baked date slice and bran muffins – my dads faviourite snacks and brought them in to hospital, fairly certain he’d just smile at the gesture and likely no one would eat them.

When I arrived at the hospital he was hunched in a chair in his private ‘deck’, drenched in autumn sun. He looked up at me and smiled, I placed the dishes on the table between us and sat down next to him.

I honestly don’t remember what we spoke about, I wish I did. It probably wasn’t much, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and he wasn’t ready for me to tell him to stay. So we sat and smiled at each other, in the autumn sun – the thought of his smile still makes me feel this internal warmth, and to my surprise he took first the date slice in his lap and demolished it, then he took the muffins and ate close to a dozen. I was delighted, though mystified about how such a skeleton of a person could fit that much in his tiny frame.

That is my last loving memory of my dad – the words I can’t remember, the smiles I’ll never forget, the sun that still warms my bones and the last supper I made him.

The next day when I went in, he couldn’t move and he couldn’t speak. I knew this was it. So I told him everything I wanted to and I ended with saying it was ok, I’d had a dream and what I was sure was the hand of God – whoever that was – put his hand over my head and told me to release and to tell him that. So I did. Through a wash of tears, of grief and of pain I told him it was ok to release and let go. He grunted like he was desperate to say or do something but was held captive by a body that could do neither.

I’ll never know what the truth of my soul meant to my dad. I don’t have parting words of wisdom or love. Nor do I have a rejection of that. I have silence and date slice and autumn sun. He had died by the time I arrived home.

So every time I eat date slice, or a bran muffin, and feel the winter sun on my face – I am transported to a state of overwhelming love and gratitude. And that is the power of food.

Julie Tenner