This past weekend, while in Texas on business, I also attended my high school reunion. It was a modest celebration at the local Knights of Columbus hall on Saturday night. There was barbecue, classic rock, and, fortunately, name tags. Other than the observation that all of those people have somehow gotten old, I am pretty much at a loss for any particularly “deep thoughts” with respect to the Chester W. Nimitz High School class of 1978. I had a very nice time. Simply, it was fun to see some of my old friends again and swap a story or two. Most of them I had not seen since our graduation, although I have had some sporadic correspondence with a few in the intervening years. I even enjoyed good conversation with people to whom, even in high school, I had not been especially close to.
Turns out, it is very hard to convey in one 15-minute conversation all of the life that you have seen in the past 30 years, even to someone who is genuinely interested. And, even when you are interested in hearing what their life is all about, you realize as you listen that you are only getting the AM radio version of a 60-second trailer to an epic movie that was itself an adaptation of a richly written ten-volume historical novel series transcribed from a language you dimly remember but no longer actually speak. (How’s that for a torturous metaphor?) That’s not to say that what is said is not meaningful or appreciated, because it is. But it is inadequate, incomplete. And it must ever be.
For example, one of the things that happens is that everyone stands around and wonders aloud about the people who aren’t there. “Whatever happened to James? And what was his sister’s name?” That’s kind of an interesting thread but it, too, either leads to a dead end or to a place that just kind of trails off into the hills, uncertain and unknowable.
I was saddened to hear about those who had died, grieved to hear of the stories of broken marriages, disappointing careers, ill health, poor choices, and difficult trials. But I was also glad, genuinely happy, to hear of the long, happy marriages and the stories of success and fulfillment, of going back to college for a new career, of surviving the death of a spouse, and of building a rich family life on a bedrock of faith and unflagging love.
It is likely I’ll never see most of those people again, I suppose. Some I will undoubtedly see on the other side and I look forward to that, too.
More than anything else, I came away with a greater sense of appreciation for my own family and a deep, strong affirmation that God is in control of it all.