The end of this month marks my eighth anniversary of the onset of a severe health crisis. During my two-week stay in the hospital, one in the ICU and one on the medical-surgical floor, I tried to make the best of my circumstances. Due to construction at the hospital, there were no private rooms. So it was that I found myself with a roommate.

My eighty-something-year-old roommate was much better company than the austere scenery outside my window. She had fallen at home, which resulted in a broken hip. We became soulmates when I learned she and her husband had a small farm in one of Maine’s small rural communities. In the 1940s, she and her husband had started married life operating their small farm. They had worked it together, side by side, for over sixty years. In return for her farm stories, to brighten her day, I would share embellished stories of the view outside my hospital window. Together we made the best of an otherwise, rather bleak situation.

I noticed that she never ate her dinner. Hospital food is not great, and this hospital’s food was especially not great, but still, I was concerned that she didn’t touch a crumb. Each night the staff removed her tray in the same condition it had arrived. I mentioned this to her nurse. Yes, they were worried that she wasn’t eating.

The next day, through conversation, I gleaned from my roommate that she and her beloved husband had never been apart and that no matter the circumstances, they had eaten every meal together. I took my cue to coax her a bit further and said I had noticed she wasn’t eating her hospital dinners. With glistening eyes and a nostalgic tone, she told me that she couldn’t eat without her husband and that by the time he arrived, mealtime in the hospital was over. She’d rather not eat than eat without him.

The following morning, I whispered to her nurse what I had learned about my roommate’s eating history. She assured me that the situation could be easily remedied. If my roommate agreed to the suggestion, they would hold her meal until her husband could get there after finishing his farm chores.

The next three evenings, they pulled the curtain and shared her meal. It was so sweet to hear them in hushed voices, sharing their day and her dinner.

I still think of that story with great fondness. When we break bread together, we share more than bread.

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