Columnist: The ladies that lunched
A friend of mine said to me recently, “When you go back to visit high school friends you can’t pretend to be something you are not, because they all knew who you were!”
It stuck with me because it is true. We all travel through years of living, moving, growing and changing. However, I have learned that if you look carefully, the core of the person you once knew is still the same.
I am sure there are exceptions of course, because life, love and war can severely alter a human being. However, there are some who can weather life, love, and war and still be true to who they always were.
Such was the case with the ladies that lunched on a cool December day in 2015.
We had gathered at our class reunion a few months before. While there, the four of us promised to meet again. Maybe lunch. You know we all say those type of things before we leave reunions, but most of the time our individual lives take over and we never quite make the plans.
The four of us were close in high school at one time or another, but over the years the closeness became distance and time was erasing friendship. Could we catch up, could we go back and visit the person we once knew well?
The older we get in life the more we want to reach back and grab onto the past. Revisit, rekindle and return to find out where others had been. How had their lives turned out? Are they the same? Did their hearts survive and their souls remain intact through the ups and downs of life?
The four of us have a mutual friend in crisis. When that happens it reminds us all how fleeting time can be. We get face to face with our own mortality and realize that lunch plans need to be kept and stories need to be told. We would have lunch.
They arrived on that cool day promptly at noon. The Christmas lights were lit on the big tree, the table was set and the lunch prepared. After heartfelt hugs we gathered to give thanks, holding hands, sitting around the candlelit table.
I am going to change their names here, but I will start with Beth. If I had to give a one-word description of Beth in high school and now, it is the word “regal.” Tall, beautiful and always poised. She was one of the first friends I met when I moved to LaGrange in 1962.
Kindness overflows her soul. I can’t remember one thing she ever said that was unkind. Not one. She didn’t gossip, she didn’t lie, she didn’t pass judgment on anyone. I always admired her.
I would go to her house often and felt like one of the family. I was always welcomed with open arms.
I don’t know what happened, but after high school she and I drifted miles apart. We were different, but I think we appreciated the difference in each other. At least I know I did.
Then there is Anne. Tiny, petit and wonderful. If I had to describe her in one word it would be “friend.” It is amazing how she loves folks. Her sense of humor could put a hardened soul at ease. I love her joy and how she can take a hardship and turn it into a laughable moment.
I know it is her way of telling you about her life, but she does it so to never evoke pity or sadness. Anne is one of the most understanding people I know. I could tell her anything and have. When I think of Anne, my thoughts are always accompanied with a smile.
Sarah is the one seated across from me at the table. If I had to give her a one word description it would be “happy.” She exudes it.
I really became close to Sarah our senior year. We stayed close through the first years of our marriages and then life took us on way different journeys.
If you would have told me about Sarah’s future in high school, I would never have come up with the scenario that played out. She married young to another high school buddy who became a minister. Their lives were full and fruitful. Their love constant and inspiring.
Her smile could have lit the Christmas tree and will light up any room, anywhere.
As I sat and watched these old friends, I noticed something incredible.
I knew many of their personal stories. I knew they had all suffered incredible loss and incredible moments of gut wrenching strength. So had I. Yet, here we were; laughing and talking.
The storms of life had not changed them. They may have been scared by them and shed many tears, but they were not defined by their sorrows. Instead they were strengthened by them and it showed.
Each one had tremendous faith and had acquiesced to God’s brilliance.
People say you can’t go back. I say you can. If you do, you just might be surprised at the joy you find. You might be overwhelmed by the spirit of friendship and love. You might also be surprised to learn that some people are not the exact same — some are even better. Some are even more kind and regal, some are even better friends, and some will just make you happy.
Just like the ladies that lunched.