Jeanne Taylor, Small Town, 1940
Yesterday I drove many more miles across rural Minnesota on my way to St. Paul. One of the pure luxuries of living in 2008 is that I can get a very fine espresso in small towns throughout the state. I pulled into a parking spot on mainstreet MN, population 1007, and got out of my car for a coffee and scone. Joy of joys on lovely summer morning in the oak savanah.
As I got out of the car, there was a family gathered around the small late model SUV in the next slant in parking spot. The patriarch of the family was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. Elegantly dressed, thick well groomed grey hair, his eyes squeezed shut, and cannulas deliverying oxygen into his nose. I walked into the coffee shop, forgot my go cup and back to the car, I overheard the family saying that he could stay in the car and people could visit him there.
At the counter- the owner took my order then turned to some of the family members and friends of the gentleman and asked if they would be coming in. No-- they wouldn't be able to bring him in afterall. The owner of the coffee shop asked if he could go out to the car to say goodbye. "Of course. By all means."
The coffee shop was rearranged to recieved the man, his family, his friends. They all came to mainstreet to say goodbye. In the end, he couldn't come to that table. But people stood in mainstreet-- hugging each other, leaning into the passenger seat-- saying their goodbyes.
As I got into my car and drove out of town I was struck by the public goodbye, but even more by the empty table that was ready, but unable to be occupied.
In my minds eye I saw Pastor Arlan at the alter. Turning to the congregation- smiling-- saying "The feast is prepared! All are welcomed to the table." I drove on for miles with the tears running down my face.
Saying goodbye-right there on mainstreet. The table is ready.