But let me back up before talking about this particular last. Approximately 36 years ago, my mom was sitting in church and saw another young woman, dark-haired and tiny just like herself, sitting near her. I'm not sure what prompted them to strike up a conversation other than the fact that my mom thought this other woman (Barbara) was "just darling," which is as good enough reason as any, I guess.
They discovered that they each had daughters about the same age. It was nearing my fourth birthday, so my mom invited Barbara's daughter, Julie, to my party. I don't have a lot of memories from when I was four, but this one is clear to me--answering the door to a little dark-haired girl, holding a box of brightly-colored candy. She explained to me that her grandpa owned a candy factory. Could Mom have picked any better friend for me? I think not.
I could probably fill a lot of space discussing either Barbara and Lois's 36-year friendship or Julie's and mine. Maybe I'll just say that Barbara and Lois's has involved a lot more missionary teas, flower gardens, recipes, and raffia while Julie's and mine has involved a lot more driving, loud music, Magnum, P.I., and Twizzlers. And Julie and I have bonded considerably in dealing with what we affectionately term as our "SSMs" (Small Swiss Mothers).
Either way, there have been close to four decades of unbreakable friendship and yes, always, the lunches. Many times we've gotten together in each other's homes for lunch and tea or gone to the Little Traveler in Geneva--through Julie's and my childhood, teen and college years, and now that we're both married.
And now the time has come for what will most likely be the last lunch with all four of us together. Barbara and Julie brought food over to Mom's house, and we all met there. We sat around the table, just like all the other times, and talked and laughed together--four teachers, which thinking back on Julie's and my completely uninspired educational years, is nothing short of miraculous.
"Our family has never been very good at math," my mom said, "so I tried to understand when Alice came home with a 'D' in algebra. But never, NEVER, has anyone in our family gotten a 'D' in English! I was mortified!" (insert much laughter at my expense)
"And Julie," Barbara took up the daughter annihilation, "every day when I would ask what she did in school would say, 'Nothing.' I'm a teacher! I know you did not do 'nothing' all day!" (insert laughter at Julie's expense)
"And now here they both are," they hooted, "telling high school teachers the best way to teach their students!"
After lunch, we adjourned to the living room to talk and laugh some more and look at some old pictures. Here are Mom, Barbara, and Julie, looking at a picture of all of us (from 10 years ago), at the tea party my mom gave for my 30th birthday.
Then Julie and I got up to take some pictures and leave our moms to talk one more time. I overheard my mom say, "Barbara, I heard Julie was at your side every minute while you were in the hospital and then recuperating,"--because this past summer, Barbara went through breast cancer surgery and recovery, too.
"She was, just like Alice is right here with you. We have been blessed with wonderful daughters, Lois," Barbara answered.
"Just think," Mom went on, "if we could have dreamt up forty years ago what our daughters would be like: this is what we would have wished for."
At the end of our time together, we all gathered by the door to say goodbye.
"Oh, Lois," said Barbara, with her hand on my mom's arm, not wanting to tell her goodbye.
Mom reached out to touch her, too. "There are worse things than dying of cancer," she laughed, "I could be going of Alzheimer's--that would be awful. Now I lie awake at night, remembering verses I learned as a child, verses that didn't mean much to me then, but now their truth is so real to me and sustains me as I go. I think--it won't be that long before I see my husband again. And you too! We'll be reunited again soon."
"What a reunion it's going to be!" answered Barbara through her tears.
Mom reached out to Julie and me with a benediction. "It'll probably be longer before we see you girls," she smiled. "I'm so glad both of you have each other to walk through life."
After we wiped our tears, said our last goodbyes, and Barbara and Julie left, Mom and I put the dishes away. "Now there are two remarkable women," she sighed, and I agreed.
As I drove home under those golden trees I thought of those remarkable women and that old adage, "Make new friends, but keep the old--one is silver, the other is gold." Maybe one of those verses that comes back to Mom at night says it better though: "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants...forever.'" (1 Samuel 20:42)
It may have been a last for the time being, but I know that particular gold will last forever.
What a reunion it's going to be!