A few days ago, Sally and I met with some of my most special friends in Atlanta for my 50th high school reunion. For two incredible days, the Dykes High School Class of 1965 ate, talked, danced, hugged and shared some adult beverages together. The honor fell to me to give a “tribute” to all who had died since our graduation a half century ago. Our time together was priceless. Here are some of the words I shared.
In a moment I will read the names of our 34 classmates and friends who have died since we graduated from high school in 1965.
34 people. That seems like an awful lot to me. Maybe not.
A half-century ago, we couldn’t wrap our idealistic minds around such a thing. We were bullet proof.
Now, we know better. We know that life is a short pause between two mysteries.
Nobody expresses this better than Bob Seger in his classic song, Like A Rock. The opening line is set in the context of high school classmates standing together at their graduation in an open field—just as we did, wearing those hot black robes, crammed together in the amphitheater at Chastain Park.
“ (We) Stood there boldly/Sweatin’ in the sun/Felt like a million/Felt like number one/The height of summer/I’d never felt that strong/ Like a rock
“I was eighteen/Didn’t have a care/Working for peanuts/Not a dime to spare/But I was lean and/Solid everywhere/Like a rock.
Like a rock/I was strong as I could be/Like a rock, nothin’ ever got to me/like a rock, I was something to see/like a rock
When someone close to us dies, there is always a pause. Sometimes a complete stopping in our tracks. It sobers us. It takes us to places we don’t visit often. It forces us to consider what matters most. So, we take a moment tonight to remember our losses—these 34 friends who grew up with us.
And when we think of them, we quickly recall our coaches, teachers, mentors. Our moms and dads, a brother or a sister.
And, for some of us, the unthinkable—the tearing away of a spouse or a child.
And so, we know what is coming. We are not bullet proof. We were never a rock. But, we are more mindful. We are wiser. Hopefully, we are a little more humble, and more comfortable not having all the answers. And, our perspective is more accepting, forgiving and compassionate.
This is the deal:
We all know that life is a gift. We know with utter clarity, that every time we embrace a friend, every time we hold a grandchild—we know that every single day is a gift.
For me, this weekend is an incredible gift—to see all of you, and to be reminded one more time how blessed I was, how blessed we all were to have had each other in our lives for that very short season.
The Seger song ends with these words:
Fifty years now/Where’d they go?/Fifty years/I don’t know/I sit and I wonder sometimes/Where they’ve gone
And sometimes late at night/When I’m bathed in the firelight/The moon comes callin’ a ghostly white/And I recall/I recall