It’s late Friday afternoon and I feel the effects of a very full week. I’m tired but I have a lot for which to be grateful, so I’m not really complaining. Just a little.
Last week I wrote in an attempt to sift through my thoughts on Junior Seau’s suicide. I was saddened by that news, and had mixed feelings about a former friend, too.
It’s been nine days since the news of his suicide. Today was the family’s memorial service and in an hour a public celebration of life will be held at the stadium. Why do I feel compelled to write something about this? My feet want me to lie down and recuperate after a week of running around. Last weekend was extra tiring as it was my 20th high school reunion. The reunion was good but I talked more than usual (which is saying a lot since I’m a chatty person) and I think I’m still tired from it, six days later!
The timing of the reunion felt a bit uncomfortable for me. I was leaving behind my adopted hometown, which was shrouded in sadness over a local hero’s death, and I was returning to the place where I grew up, in order to reconnect with people from the past. The combination caught my notice. It was a week of contrasts. I was returning home, but I feel more at home where I live now. I was celebrating the past with former classmates, at the same time that many in my community were in mourning and remembering a glorious past of a local football star. I wondered if it would feel uncomfortable to celebrate with classmates while so many were in mourning over the end of Seau’s life. I was commemorating an end of high school and others were mourning the end of a life ended too soon. With old friends I was laughing almost to the point of tears, while others were crying over a man they knew and loved, or had never met but admired from a distance.
Actually, the timing turned out to be a gift in disguise. The sadness over Seau’s death was so palpable here, near his home. Leaving town for two days allowed me to see beyond the sadness shrouding this county. It didn’t completely leave my mind, but the physical distance gave me a chance to absorb the news a little bit.
Reconnecting with classmates was meaningful. Some of them I hadn’t seen in twenty years, but I’d seen a few ten years ago at our last reunion. High school is a pivotal time, a sometimes rickety bridge between childhood and adulthood, and it felt significant to come together with people who were on their own similar journeys at the same time. Such a small fraction of graduates go to reunions. But some of us did opt to go, deciding to take a chance that the possible rewards outweighed the fears reunions bring to the surface. I reconnected with people who were part of my daily life and we forged new friendships.
As I type, tens of thousands of people are uniting to remember a man they admired. Some of them were part of his daily life due to family ties, neighborhood links or football connections. They are convening to remember the past. It’s different from my reunion last week but there are common threads. Remembering the past is part of knowing who you are in the present, and part of deciding where you want to go in the future. It’s important to remember the good about the past, or the best parts about someone who is gone. It’s part of what humans need to do. To my friends from twenty years ago: thanks for appreciating me as I was then. To Junior Seau: rest in peace.