Five days ago I flew back home to Manitoba. I go back every year or so, but this time was different. I brought my new husband of one-and-a-half years (his first time in any of the prairie provinces) and we were going to my high school reunion.
I was excited leading up to it. I could hardly wait to see my friends again. The last reunion we had was 18 years ago. I was pregnant with my oldest son......
....and I was married to someone else.
My spouse chauffeured me to the gathering (my Mom in the passenger seat and me in the back) and I became overwhelmed with emotion. "Am I going to have have to explain to everyone what happened? Are people going to look at me with judgement in their eyes? Am I going to have to answer a thousand questions?"
I surprised myself. I thought I had long since grieved all I needed to around my first marriage. I have been given the gift of a new life with a wonderful man. He was here beside me, holding my hand. Why do I feel like bursting into tears?
I didn't have much time to process what was going on for me. And it didn't take long before someone mentioned to me "all I had gone through" and my eyes started welling up with tears.
I was furious with myself. I did not come all this way to cry.
Learning #1 - processing my divorce with my British Columbia friends when it happened was great. They helped me do a thorough job. But I still needed to process further with my childhood friends, who knew both of us. For some reason, it was significant.
Once I got my emotions under control I had a great time. There were about 100 of us. It felt like no time had passed. Those I was nervous about seeing again were wonderful and life giving and gave me no weird vibes. Yay for no weird vibes.
I laughed until I thought tears would run down my legs. The stories we told were sweet. We remembered those whose journeys ended prematurely. Our hugs were warm and genuine.
And they loved my husband, Jarrett, quickly conscripting him to BBQ duty.
Once the reunion ended the "after party" began which was almost greater than the event itself. Not because there were more stories and laughs and memories, but because the level of honesty and vulnerability could almost be described as sacred.
Learning #2 - sitting with dear friends you have known 40 years and hearing hard, disappointing, disillusioning stories is profound and can only be described as a gift: a "treasure in dark places". Not one of us is living the life we thought we would. We hold each other not with judgement but rather with grace and acceptance. This is as close to koinonia as I think we're going to see this side of eternity.
The next day there were more get-togethers. More honesty. More tears (from me, of course.)
Learning #3 - you can ask shockingly honest questions to people with whom you have a long history. And it's ok. Even if you haven't seen them for a really long time. They will more than likely tell you the truth. And you will understand.
Jarrett and I stayed at my mom's house. I looked around her apartment, literally stuffed full of memories, I noticed pictures on the walls, on the fridge, on the mirrors, on the side tables. Some of those pictures were me as a young bride, my Dad, my first husband, and others who aren't in our life anymore.
Learning #4 - it is really smart to keep those memories active. Keep those pictures up. Don't forget the good times. Just because people aren't in our lives, (for whatever reason) it doesn't mean they never were. And that is what makes our time on this earth so rich.
It would be great if it wasn't 18 years until our next reunion. Just saying.