Of course, most days are not like that. Several weeks ago was a day that I had truly looked forward to. A friend from high school days was going to be back in our old home town and many of the group would be able to join him for breakfast and a chance to catch up with each other. A pall was cast over the gathering because one of our friends could not be there. Two days before she'd been airlifted to the hospital with a blood clot on the brain. She was still unconscious and the prognosis wasn't good.
In the days that followed, our old lunch table group kept in touch with each other through email and Facebook posts, sharing our concern and our memories. Although death had touched all of us in someway through the years, all members of this group were still alive and being together had made the years fall away and images of school days were fresh.
Today that changed. Carol Lindberg Braaten's time on earth has ended and there is an empty seat at the lunch table. I wrote this poem several days ago in that state of sadness and impending loss.
Is he alone who has courage on his right hand and faith on his left hand?
That day is waiting,
In the wings,
When the mathematics change—
When a given is taken away.
Perhaps they all wanted a nickname,
a moniker, a distinctive sobriquet,
Those changing, giddy adolescent girls
Who gathered at the lunch table
in that small town high school cafeteria.
She wore hers with a jaunty aspect.
Carol became Charlie,
The flying ace,
The intrepid adventurer.
Who else would have a skunk named Artemis?
Who else could twirl the perfect DQ cone,
Or make you laugh just to hear her giggle?
Her face was made for happiness.
But she was more grounded than aloft,
With love of home and church and family; chose to be
Carol again and never fly too far away from roots
Sunk deep in small town soil.
Giddiness fades and high school ends;
Promises of forever are made.
Ties of friendship stretch and fray,
But do not break.
Busy with jobs and homes and children
Arthritis and gray hair can approach unheeded.
Where, you ask, did fifty years go?
I still dream of missing the bus and
Making the honor roll, and wondering,
Will there be a place for me at the lunch table?
The smell of fish sticks conjures memories.
There is much talk of Heaven
And of hope,
Of faith and coming glory
And God willing, that may be,
No lunch table girl has crossed yet;
Exit stage left.
Second act, perhaps.
That day came too soon.
image: Minnesota Historical Society Photo http://www.mnhs.org