by Mabel Louise Caringer
“What are you all dressed up for?” the waitress at the Steak ‘n Shake asked, looking around the table at the nine of us, all wearing dark suits and black dresses. She was so chipper, it was hard to tell her the truth. My family had just come from my brother David’s funeral. After we told her that, she took our order quickly and left us even quicker.
The Steak ‘n Shake was an odd place to come after a funeral, but we all knew it was exactly where David would have wanted us to celebrate his life. I could almost picture him sitting next to us, sipping his favorite root beer float, wondering why we were sad, wondering how he could make us smile. I prayed for a sign that he was at peace.
My brother and I were raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and Steak ‘n Shake was a staple of our Midwestern upbringing. Mom and Dad loved the hamburgers, I loved the French fries, and David? Without fail, he ordered Steak ‘n Shake’s root beer float. As his treat arrived in a frosty mug, he’d flash me a playful grin that meant, Aren’t you jealous?
Eventually we started families of our own, but David and I stayed close. Choosing a place to meet for some quality time was always easy. That’s right—Steak ‘n Shake! It was where David would tell me all about what was going on in his life, in-between sips of his root beer float.
Now, while my family waited for our food, I thought about how quickly David had left us. He had been dealing with heart problems recently—and cutting back on the Steak ‘n Shake—but I wasn’t prepared to see him in a hospital bed, unconscious. He had checked himself into the hospital, a nurse told us, but by the time we got there, he was on life support. Within a couple of days, David passed away. We never even got to say goodbye.
Finally the waitress brought out our orders. We began to eat somberly, picking at our plates. “David would have loved to be here,” Mom said, and we all nodded.
Just then, the waitress returned with a frosty mug in her hand. “Who ordered the root beer float?” she asked. Our table was silent. Nobody had ordered a root beer float. But I knew just why it had come.
CLICK HERE for more stories like this.