Last week I did something I have wanted to do for years: I reunited with some of my dearest high school friends. Women I have known for over forty years. Women whom, at least some of them, I haven't seen in almost forty years.
It was beautiful.
As each friend arrived, the anticipation grew. Smiles, tears, and laughter filled the room like the sweet aroma of summer in Coastal Virginia. For about three hours that Sunday afternoon, the clock may have kept ticking for you, but for us, time stood still.
We caught up on everything from the bitterness of divorce to the blessing of grandchildren. Whispers of the pain of seeing parents age and change along with our own fickle bodies. We were hungry, not as much for the food on the table, but for the details of each others’ lives that we had missed. We were all so close. What had happened? Why did we lose touch with each other? Where had the time gone? We devoured each bite of information with all the compassion and love that comes with forty years of friendship.
We passed around a yearbook, laughing over grainy photos and regrettable hair styles. We mourned the loss of friends and teachers. We reminisced about the fun we had and the choices we made- both bad and good.
There were some who were not there with us- distance having won over sentiment. We longed to see them, but totally understood. There was, however, one person there who I hadn't expected to see. I had almost totally forgotten about her. She was almost - almost a stranger; and when I looked at her photo, I was shaken to the core.
It was me.
As my friends talked and passed around pictures, their laughter rising and falling like the waves we used to play in, I was in a world all my own. I was meeting myself for the first time in many, many years.
I stared at the photo, remembering the very outfit I was wearing. I looked at how tan I was, and how slender and healthy I looked. I was smiling and happy and…confident. I think that’s what got me the most. Seeing myself through my fifty-eight year-old eyes, knowing everything I had lived through up until that time, and still seeing the poised assurance of someone who had indeed, come through her own private hell.
There was no trace of the pain of having lost a mother way too early or having had a less-than-stellar example of a father. There was nothing that would have told you that some forty years later she would come to realize that she had actually been neglected and abused, and would finally come to terms with putting that in print. The pain was there, she just didn’t allow it to control her life. Instead, she chose grace. She chose to let God take care of the hurt, the doubt, the confusion, the fear, and the anger.
And she lived.
She thrived, in fact. Why give negativity the opportunity to rule your life? We are not defined by our past- we are refined by it. Jesus didn’t die so that we would wallow in our pain; He sacrificed Himself so that we could and would overcome. Life is both too short and too long to spend it feeling sorry for yourself. His love. His mercy. His courage. That’s what kept her going then, and that’s what fuels her today.
As the afternoon drew to a close, there were promises of future meetings. Promises of doing our best to keep each other close and to not lose touch. Promises that I intend to keep- with all of my friends, including myself. I'm so glad we both came to the reunion.