In a week or so, my high school class will be celebrating our 50th class reunion. Thankfully, our class has a handful of dedicated individuals who try their best to keep all of us connected and informed about our classmate's lives. These individuals have done this thankless job for decades. The rest of us...we are lucky to have these people. I moved away to attend college, so without this lifeline they provide, I would have no link to my past. I talk to other friends who graduated from different schools around the same time as I did, and they don't have anyone from their class acting in this capacity. They have a deep sense of disconnection with their past. While it is important to look to the future, and be grounded in the present...it’s just as important to know where you came from.
In preparing for our upcoming reunion, my classmates have been soliciting email addresses so the reunion's event schedule can be sent to everyone. In the process of doing this, unfortunately word came back that a number of our classmates had passed away. Dave, one of our caretakers, emailed a list out to everyone with the names of twenty, or so, fellow classmates who had died.
I studied the names on the list. Some of them, I already knew had passed away...but there were others on the list whom I did not know had died. Sadness came over me. I got my high school yearbook out and I looked up everyone's picture that was on the list. I placed my fingers on their picture as if it would help me to magically connect with them and make up for so much lost time. I tried to recall something about each of them...some positive memory from our high school days. Some of the people on the list had written something by their picture. I read their comments about us staying friends forever...promising to always stay in touch...I'll always remember you. There was so much joy and happiness in the things written. Everyone was so positive about what the future would hold. Everyone was so convinced that we would remain friends forever. Sadly, in every one of those instances; graduation day was the last time I ever saw any of them again.
I felt guilty for not staying in touch. I could have...I should have,,, been a better friend. Then I realized that communication is a two-way street. They could have reached out to me as well. But life is hard, isn't it? You get married, you have children, you get caught up building a career, your life is so busy. You have no time to look forward, let alone look back. There is no point in beating yourself up...they were busy, you were busy, you had a life to live, and they had a life to live as well. As I looked at those pictures I wondered if they had a good life. Did they get married? Did they have children? Did they live happy lives? Did they leave behind people who deeply loved them and miss them to this very day? I hope so. I really do.
We get caught up so much in the day-to-day grind that we rarely take time to reflect back on our lives and be thankful for all the things God has been gracious enough to bestow upon us. It has been a long journey from sitting at a desk in my high school to sitting at this keyboard right now. There certainly have been some very dark days, but there have been some very wonderful moments and events that more than outweigh the sad times. The very fact that I am typing this, and my name wasn't on Dave's list is something to be treasured in and of itself.
There is a highly popular television show called "This Is Us". It just completed its first season. Everyone is anxiously awaiting its return this fall. The show flips back and forth in time from the past to the present as we see how events in the past have shaped the character's present situation and personality. It resonates with the audience so well because that is how our mind works. Our minds flip back and forth as we reflect on some past event to see how it impacted our lives. We are the sum total of our past experiences. They help to determine who we become.
As a teenager, with no perspective to draw from, I was only too happy to leave the city I grew up in to see what was just over the hill. As an old man, with his 50th class reunion a few days away...and the wisdom to now know better...part of who I became was a result of the kind and loving people I went to school with, and the community I grew up in.