I ran into a woman I went to grade school with the other night. My husband and I were at a benefit and she was at our table. I hadn't seen her in almost thirty years. I didn't recognize her right away. When I first saw her, I felt she was familiar but I couldn't place her. I didn't even try to do the math. I just figured she looked like someone I knew once.
At one point, everyone started introducing themselves. When I gave my name she spoke it with me and then said my last name with a big smile. "How? How?" I asked as I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders trying to convey that I felt like I knew her but couldn't figure out why. She told me her name was Laura then said, "St. John of the Cross." Our grade school. A rush of warm feelings came over me. I had the fondest memories of this girl; now a woman. I realized that she looked exactly the same. Her hair was still down to her back. Always tall, she was now six feet. In school, she had a light, joyful energy and she was always nice to me.
We weren't quite friends in school. She was in the grade ahead of me with my sister Lissa who passed away over twenty years ago. Spending time with someone who knew my sister and is currently the age Lissa would be had she lived put my head in a strange place. I wanted to move across the table, change seats with her husband and sit next to her; up close. Throughout dinner, I kept looking her way hoping she wouldn't catch me staring. She was a window into Lissa's past and unwritten present. Laura had four kids. Lissa could have had four kids. Laura had a Masters in Education. Lissa was in college at the time of her death. Would she have graduated and gone on to get a Masters Degree, too? Who would she have been?
Laura and I had a lovely chat and everyone at the table was delighted by the small-world-wonder of our encounter. Somehow it felt as if Lissa was there because someone who shared in her life was there. Through Laura, I felt Lissa's presence.
I miss my sister. Her birthday is today. She would have been forty-two. It's been so long since she died that there are few people who are currently in my life who even knew her. My husband has never met her. My three year old daughter doesn't yet know that she has another Aunt who is in heaven. It's hard to know when to introduce the concept to someone so young. I had an opening when we were reading together but I chickened out. The moment is coming soon. She will know about her Aunt Lissa. This I swear.
I'm grateful that synchronicity, or serendipity, or chance, grace, or God put me at the table with my long lost past. My sister. Long lost. Never forgotten.