Putting your life on pause and juggling time off from work, family commitments and gas money is tricky business. When you factor in that you are doing it all so you can honor an old friend who suddenly passed away, adds a whole new layer of, well, shit to the situation.
I found myself saying that little gem a lot last week when I learned of my school-friend’s death.
While looking at old pictures.
While packing my funeral attire.
While driving to the town where I grew up.
While I watched his casket roll by us.
Apparently my 7 levels of grieving are accompanied by poop-like 4 letter words.
Luckily, the Big Guy who hears my internal monologue (as well as my “out-loud-when-no-one-else-is-around-o-logue”) is big enough to sort through my unladylike language and hear the truth of how I’m feeling through it all. Bummed.
But amidst the unanswerable questions and feelings of, “Seriously, God? Him? Now?” I got to be so blessed by my crazy road trip, I just had to write it down, in case the shit-feelings decided to creep back in and take over.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you already know that my hometown and childhood school has played a big role in who I am. If you’re a Facebook friend, you may have even seen a few of us BCHS’ers refer to ourselves as a family.
Unless you were part of the small band of Bethelites, you probably think we’re nuts.
That’s ok. I think your Proms are weird. Oh, and your football games under lights. What’s that all about?
Blast to the Past
On this recent journey to the desert, I got to leave the kids with my husband and remind him to be sure to juggle swimming lessons, a dog-grooming appointment and an empty refrigerator. Bye, dear!
Seriously–he’s such a good man! He held down the fort like the experienced pro he is and welcomed me home with a leaf-free yard, straightened up house, kid school-lunches already made, candles flickering and a bottle of wine on the counter. I am a woman who is well-loved.
My desert drive was so nice and alone. Maybe because I hadn’t been in a car that long without another human, specifically, without two young humans who seem to pass their time bickering, puking or fussing, but my I-5 drive actually helped refresh me and gave me plenty of time to think.
I was able to listen to whatever girly-moody-cheesy songs I wanted to and belt them out to the detriment of NO ONE ELSE’S ears! It was heaven.
This trip was also a bit of a time traveling expedition.
Since my parents have long-since moved out of state, I asked my dear old high school pal if I could bunk with her. She happily took me in and even set me up in her parent’s home – the same one I spent so much time in all throughout high school. It was just as comforting and home-like as I remembered it and staying there was one of the best parts of my trip. Totally loved it!
The town has certainly aged, just like me. But I really hope I look better than the dusty, rundown buildings. Then again, there was also a ton of new construction too, despite the new unflattering nicknames towns had earned.
The old Bethel faces that I got to see made me so glad. I know we all felt that weird mix of both happy to see each other and sad for our loss, and it was nice to know I wasn’t alone with my conflicting feelings about the situation.
With all the black clothes and mournful chanting, there was no way we could forget why we were all crammed together in that hot building, but knowing we were there together, albeit, scattered throughout like bits of Bethel confetti, really helped me keep things together.
Thanks for that, friends.
I also knew that so many others, who couldn’t make it, were thinking about us as we stood there staring ahead at the sad reality that people we love will eventually leave us behind and we will have absolutely zero control of it.
To the Ones I Saw
I’ll be honest and say that I had such high hopes of our eventual get-together where we could feel free to let out that breath we were holding at the funeral, smile and hug each other, and even tell old tales from the old days. But life still goes on and made its presence known with family commitments, babysitters who needed to be relieved and work to go home and do. So I couldn’t help but feel like it all ended a bit too quickly for me.
I guess after 15 years, it’s going to take me longer than an hour or so to catch up with everyone and feel like I really got to take it all in: your significant other, your kids, your job, your new hometown – I want to hear all about it. Seriously. But it just couldn’t happen in so short a time period. It was a bit like a ‘Reunion Tease’ if you will.
It also made me afraid that it would take something tragic to bring us all together again.
I really hope not.
The evening after the funeral and after our quick afternoon visit around a long rectangular group of tables, a few of us met at a friend’s house and got to really take the scenic route down memory lane. Wow! I had so much fun! I learned about all those fun stories of who-kissed-who and who-got-in-trouble-for-what that I had NEVER heard!
There were lots of laughs, plenty of smiles and so many good memories.
I will say, that we have a pretty impressive bunch of spouses and significant others among our Bethel-midst. Never did they seem to be annoyed with all our inside jokes or stories that they had no part in. They smiled, listened, laughed and supported us well. Friends, I think you did a wonderful job at finding people to love you and support you and I hope to get to know them more in the future.
Everyone looked good. I honestly found myself just sitting and staring at you sometimes in awe of it all, but then I’d look away so I didn’t look like a weirdo. Everyone seems to be aging well and the life experiences you have gone through since we last were together blow my mind. War, loss, hardships and heartbreaks haven’t crushed your spirits and I am reminded at how resilient we all are.
This weekend I was reminded that people really do change, but I think our mutual love of good memories will always be the same. I was truly blessed by my last minute road trip and am so thankful that I was able to leave with one last look at my dear home town and my dear old friend.
I would love to see everyone again and celebrate our past. Even if it isn’t an official “reunion” what do you say we plan something, set-aside a date on our calendars and really make something happen?
So…what’s everyone doing next August?