This weekend I had what was perhaps one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I joined members of my graduating high school class at our 20 year reunion in Johnson City. I’m not sure that I have the adequate words to describe the experience and for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that it is a rarity for me to be at a loss for words. I don’t really know what I expected it to be and I’m not really sure that it was what any of us expected; but what I can assure you of is this- it was a memorable weekend that I will never forget for the rest of my life. The memory of this past weekend won’t last forever merely because I got the opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen for 10 or 20 years; but it will forever stick with me because of what I was able to take away from this weekend. So tonight, I want to share those takeaways and I want to dedicate this article to the wonderful and amazing people who are the Science Hill High School Class of 1995.
The first thing I took from this weekend is perhaps the biggest thing that caught me off guard. In life- everyone fits in. When you go to reunions, you have certain expectations of what might happen. You think back to the way things were when you were in high school- the people you hung out with, the cliques that inevitably formed in the halls as you went throughout your day. This phenomenon is not new to any high school class- I still see it in the halls of Jefferson County each and every day. We were no exception to this rule when we were teenagers either. Ultimately, you segregate yourselves as you gravitate toward people who are more like you. This is almost a rite of passage in high school and its not always a pleasant one- but what I saw this weekend was not that. This was the first time since I left Science Hill that I noticed something that was very amazing to me. If it was prevalent at the 10 year reunion, I simply missed it, but I sat back this weekend and enjoyed watching people who didn’t really talk to each other in high school genuinely catching up with each other, asking about jobs & families, and sharing memories. The walls that every teenager dreads in high school were no longer there. It was the first time that I truly understood that we had grown up and realized that there are far more important things in life….like each other.
My second takeaway is very much a result of the first- Life is better spent around people you care about & that care about you. With each event that we did- from the football game & Capone’s vault on Friday, to meeting up with my two closest friends on Saturday, to the dinner reception Saturday night, I found myself wishing…praying that each instance would not end. I didn’t want to leave these people. Not all of us got along when we were in school (I accept most of the blame for that by the way), but none of that existed and I absolutely fell in love with being with my classmates. Why you might ask- for the same reasons anyone wants to stay somewhere- I felt loved by everyone I spent time with this weekend. I have some amazing people in my life: great co-workers, wonderful students, and a caring church family; but, as I’m sure we can all relate, life often leaves us on an island to fend for ourselves, and if we are lucky we have a caring, supportive spouse to help shoulder that burden. This weekend provided more than a survival atmosphere- it took me away from every care, every stressful thought, every challenging obstacle I deal with on a day to day basis simply because I was in a room full of people who showed me that I am loved and whom I love very deeply.
My third takeaway is something I have been dealing with for 19 years; but I saw something this weekend that not only changed my perspective and gave me this epiphany, but touched my heart more than words can ever describe. Life is short. With reunions, we are faced with the empty chairs. The chairs that should have been occupied by classmates, but are no longer with us. One of those empty chairs has haunted me for almost 19 years now. Those who know me, know the story of my best friend’s passing merely two years after we graduated. Most know that I was supposed to be in the car with him that night. Many have come to my side, messaged me or texted me each October 27 to check on me- really the outpouring of support that myself, Lee, and Jackie get each year is simply amazing. This year- to celebrate our 20th reunion- the three of us met at Terry’s graveside to take a picture together one more time with our friend, at least in spirit. Nothing prepared me for what I would see when we walked up there. There, on his headstone, was a picture, a perm kit, a bottle of moose (we never let Terry live down the perm), and a note that simply said that since he couldn’t be with us, the class of ’95 was bringing the reunion to him. It was then- as I choked back tears (much like I’m doing now) that I realized how selfish I have been with Terry. Not just his passing, but ALL of the “empty seats” at the reunion has had a lasting impact on us all. It was this year that I think many of us realized that by the time the next reunion rolls around, there will be more pictures on our memorial table. After that experience Saturday morning- I made it my mission to stay in touch with as many people as possible, to say I love you as many times as possible, and to actually see as many of my classmates as I possibly can before the next 10 years goes by.
As I have become long winded (shocker I know), I will close with this thought. I simply have the best classmates anyone could ask for. We have had our differences, we have had our ups and downs, we have lost classmates, and we have had successes enumerable. The one thing that all of this has in common- the one defining thing that makes the graduating class of ’95 the absolute best there is- is that through everything In life- we are in this together. So, thank you Science Hill High School graduating class of 1995- you have irrevocably changed me and my life- and I am a better person for having known each and every one of you. I sincerely love you all.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach