Sunday, October 12, 2014

Old Friends

This past weekend we went up to Minnesota. It was originally scheduled as a visit to see Sarah, do some shopping for her and catch up with family. As it turns out, in the middle of last week, one of my high school friends' mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. It turned out that her visitation and funeral were on Saturday morning, so I thought it would be a good chance to pay my respects to a friend I hadn't seen in 5 years. (He was a character in Dirty Shirt and one of my closest friends in high school). So, I hooked up with another friend from high school (also a character from Dirty Shirt), for coffee beforehand and we went to the visitation together.

Neither of us knew what to expect. We decided just to show up and be there for our mutual friend. We know his whole family, so we looked forward to seeing them all together again, but with many situations like these, you always go in with a bit of trepidation. It turns out these pre-reunion jitters were for naught. It was an amazing morning, actually, full of beauty, support, encouragement and love.

We talked to our friend and his siblings about their mom, her struggle with cancer, and shared memories of her. We also talked about the good times together in high school. It was almost as though we were all goofing around in their living room last week, even though it was over 35 years ago. We picked up right where we left off. We caught up on kids and careers and had some great chats. I'm convinced that funerals are as much about rejuvenating our hearts through the connection of those remaining, as they are in honoring those that have passed. It helps us carry on through the grief and make sense of the sadness. Death is a necessary part of life - and, yes, I realize the irony in that statement - but the support of friends can make it sting a little less. Sometimes, a lot less.

After we talked to them, we ran into three other women friends from our high school days. One lived across the street from me when I lived on Portland Avenue. The other two were part of our high school circle of friends and I remember some of the happiest times of my high school years with them. As I met each one, we talked about where we lived, our spouses and children, how our families were doing and how really, really good it was to see each other.

And in the process, I noticed that we were all a little older, grayer, and touched with laugh lines. After talking with each of them for twenty minutes or so, it was clear how blessed we all were. Pat put it best when he said that we all ran with a pretty good crowd back then and here, 35 years later, it was clear that was paying dividends. They've all raised children, had successful careers and managed to look great while doing it. We hugged each other, exchanged business cards and wished each other well. Hopefully we'll see each other again before another 35 years passes.

I've said it time and time again, that lately something has awakened in me that allows me to see the beauty in people, more than ever. My wife will attest that I've become a late blooming extrovert. I wouldn't go that far, but when I'm put in situations with people I care about, I get energized. I come away needing alone-time to process it, but when I do, it's like my life has another layer of love or richness, or texture added to it. I cannot explain it, but it happened again this weekend, and I'm a better person for it. I intend to keep my eyes open for more chances like this.

One never intends to leave a funeral uplifted, but when you run into old friends like I did this weekend, it does exactly that.

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