Over the past several weeks, especially since I began writing this blog, I have had several contacts from old friends—in some cases, people I haven’t seen in years. This has been an incredible joy and a great comfort. I’m aware that sometimes people experience isolation in circumstances like mine—it is not easy to be present with someone who has a terminal illness. It can be scary, and sometimes people—even people you have been close to– just don’t know what to say or how to be, so they avoid the situation entirely.
That hasn’t happened, and I couldn’t be more appreciative. Besides immediate family, several have visited, or met me in a mutually convenient location. This has included friends from all stages of my life: my college roommate who lives a couple of hours away, the husband of a friend from graduate school who is also a good friend, a friend I knew from Japan who drove down from Canada, and most recently, friends from Michigan and a high school classmate I have known since kindergarten. My cousin also flew up from Tuscaloosa—a real schlep– for a long weekend. Visits and halfway get togethers with others are in the planning stages. And several others have posted comments and memories on my blog or on Facebook, or sent me emails.
This is not to give short shrift to more recent friends, especially those I’ve made since moving to New Hampshire. My Sunday running group has stayed in touch, even taking me out to lunch, and local friends have checked in, walked with me, given me rides to medical appointments, and otherwise been very supportive. I’m very grateful for all of this.
Perhaps the most interesting part of reconnecting with people you have known a long time, especially those from youth or early adulthood, is our memories. Many are shared, of course, but the ones that are most fascinating are the ones each of us have that the other either doesn’t remember at all, or recalls only after being reminded. A case in point is my recent reunion with my high school classmate. We had the same teachers in elementary school, and each of us had memories from the second grade. Mine was that, to settle us down after a fit of giggling, we were sent to the principal’s office. She had no memory of this. Hers was that I encouraged and egged her on, to get the requisite number of stars for memorizing our times tables, after I had done so myself. “You were so compassionate,” she said—what a tribute to a second grader! I don’t recall this at all, though I greatly appreciated the compliment–I am not sure I could think of myself as aspiring to be compassionate, or even valuing this quality, until many years later, after much life experience.
The other thing is how you can pick up with someone, after not seeing them and leading separate lives, even after many years. Whatever connection we forged when we saw each other much more frequently, including our memories (whether shared or those we remind the other of) somehow remains intact. Social media has helped a lot in renewing many of these connections, but I’m also grateful for the opportunities to see people in person.
It is a truism, certainly one that teachers often experience with their students, that we can never really know or appreciate the impact we have on others. These contacts, both old and new, are helping me reflect on the whole arc of my life—from childhood, to family connections, to adulthood, to the more recent past since I came to New Hampshire. It’s a real blessing, and I thank you all.