The Photo Ribbon Memorial.
It was a long trip from California to my Indiana High School reunion. The festivity was both surreal and magical and brought many classmates together for the first time in forty years. I had no inhibition of bear-hugging any classmate whom I had formerly offered only a half smile from the dim hallways of the old school.
The reunion celebrated the survival beyond our senior year of 1976. Some classmates shared joyful moments of the past. Others told tales of achievement and grand kids. Most were happy and appreciative for simply being alive. It was a ceremony of life lessons blended with renewed hopes and dreams.
Close to the entrance on a table, I noticed the senior photographs of many classmates draped together as a ribbon. I recognized the faces, most of whom I had acknowledged in friendly exchange. They were being honored for their brief lives. I would never have the chance to hug them or to know them more deeply. The thought of my own life flooded into my brain. One day my photo would be strung onto this ribbon.
The next morning I pulled into the driveway of my childhood home on Grantline Road. The old house was bequeathed to me after my parents died and I had previously rented it out after moving to California. Now there was a For-Sale sign in the middle of the yard.
The house was illuminated with cool, September sunshine and dew reflected from the grass. As I stood in the front yard I was transported to my childhood. I remembered jumping off the porch with my friends and running down the hill with a towel that I wore as a super hero cape. I could smell mom’s cornbread and imagined watching family shows from the old tv. I turned in a circle to observe only vacant homes. The toys I once carried were now rental car keys. The warm cocoa I once sipped was now cold hotel coffee.
It wasn’t until I noticed the wrinkles on my hands that I became aware of the present. Only then did I wake from my slumber and realize I was fifty-eight years old.
I thought of the photo ribbon memorial again. I understood it was not the length of time we are given, the possessions we have acquired, or what we have accomplished that is important, but rather the memories we have given others and the people we have inspired.
Although we grieve for those who have fallen behind us, we must always be joyful for the special essence they each shared.
Goodbye, my ole’ friends. You are never really gone, because your spirit will always live in our hearts. The world is already a better place because you visited it.