92: The Lunchtablers

92: The Lunchtablers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

The Lunchtablers

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.

~Douglas Pagels

Life’s best and worst moments happen when you least expect them. When I was in sixth grade, finding a good lunch table was difficult. I didn’t have any classes with my fifth grade friends, and I hadn’t had time to make new friends yet. I remember sitting at different lunch tables every day the first two weeks of school, trying to find a group I fit in with. It took me about three weeks to get it right.

Even today, I’m not quite sure how I found the seven girls who became my best friends. I used to think it was some mixture of fate and coincidence that brought us together, but later I came to realize that it must have been God’s will. Like me, they had been separated from their elementary school friends, and somehow we all ended up at the same lunch table.

We never really discussed it. We just sat together every day at lunch. Before long, we started inviting each other to our birthday parties and getting together on weekends. I always wanted a best friend, and somehow I was blessed enough to find seven. As a group, we decided to call ourselves the only name that seemed appropriate: “The Lunchtablers.”

There was no other name that could describe us because, although we were friends, the only thing we had in common was we ate lunch together. Honestly, we were an odd group. Christy was a studious soccer player, Lauren was a shy golfer with an infectious laugh, Hayden was a tomboy on the swim team, Meghan was a dancer who loved shopping, Kim was practically a hippie who only shopped for necessities, Laura was a dramatic cheerleader, and Sara Parker, whom we affectionately nicknamed “Sparker,” was a religious new girl in town. I was a cheerleader, but first and foremost, I was a writer.

It was writing that brought me to a particular winter night. Sparker and I were in the same newspaper class, and we were co-reporters for a basketball game. We had covered games together before. As a cheerleader, I had a good view of the court, so Sparker would sit in the front row, and we would write the story play by play. However, an hour before the game, Sparker called me and told me she wouldn’t be able to come. Her mom had to go to the hospital. She said it wasn’t anything serious, so I didn’t give it much thought. After all, everyone knew that Sparker’s mom suffered from a rare form of cancer, but it had been in remission for years now. She seemed fine.

The next week we found out what was really going on. Apparently, Mrs. Parker’s cancer had metastasized, and there wasn’t much hope of a recovery. Sparker wasn’t at school the next day, and during the final class period, a voice came over the school intercom, calling all of the Lunchtablers into the front office. When we got there, Christy’s mom said she was taking us to the hospital to keep Sparker company during this difficult time.

We went with Sparker to one of the hospital’s waiting rooms. At first we asked about her mom’s condition. Before long the conversation diverted to school and other middle school concerns. At the end of our hour-long visit, we hugged Sparker and said goodbye so she could spend time with her family.

About a half hour after we left the hospital, we got the call. Sparker’s mom had died. I’ll never forget when my mom came into my room and told me the devastating news. I didn’t know Mrs. Parker very well, but I did know that she was a wonderful, Christian woman. Sparker said throughout her mom’s life and even on her deathbed, she always said, “God is in control.”

The day after her mom’s death, Sparker came back to school. All of the Lunchtablers rallied around her, and on the day of her mom’s funeral, we sat in the pew behind her for support. After a few weeks had gone by, Sparker told us more about her mom’s life and even about her final moments. She said that before her mom died, their family minister prayed aloud for Mrs. Parker, ending his prayer by saying, “God, please welcome this beautiful woman into heaven.” Then, as soon as the preacher said “Amen,” her heart monitor flat-lined, and she passed away.

When Sparker told me that story, I was sure without a shadow of a doubt that God was, indeed, in control. I became convinced that even when life seems impossible to understand, He is working behind the scenes in unexpected ways, and He never abandons us.

To commemorate Mrs. Parker, the Lunchtablers dedicated a plaque in her honor at our high school, so she could be with us throughout the next four years of our friendship. Sparker followed in her mother’s faithful footsteps, starting a weekly Bible study for us to attend, and the Lunchtablers have stayed together ever since. Although we all attend different colleges now, we have annual sleepovers to share what is going on in our new lives and reflect on our past.

Adolescent life is full of changes. Some of them are good changes, like meeting a lifelong group of friends, and some of them are difficult changes, like dealing with an unexpected loss. Through my middle school experiences, I learned the necessity of trusting God in small and large matters. Whenever my life changes or my future seems daunting, I think about the Lunchtablers, and I am reminded that God is always in control.

~Kara Marie Hackett

More stories from our partners