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Posted By Opening the Heart

   When I went to my 50th high school reunion a few weeks ago, I had many mixed feelings: would I recognize people, would they recognize me? How well had I aged compared to everyone else? Would I still have a crush on Arlene Mattarazzo? Would Francene still have a crush on me, or even remember that she'd had one? Who remembered what, how would we look, was it a mistake to come? Then I remembered to breathe and came back to the moment and marveled at how quickly we could still descend into the busy, negative mind. Then, I made a decision to just have a fun time. In my therapy practice, when I teach mindfulness strategies, I will often speak about learning to develop perspective- to watch the parade rather than march in it. In regards to my reunion, "marching in the parade" meant getting lost in the worry, doubt, comparing, fretting. When we do march in the parade there is a lot of drama, and when there's drama, there's always suffering close by. When we are able to watch the parade from the grandstand, there's less drama, and, therefore, less suffering. So I decided to just see each person who came before me that night as an interesting form of the Beloved, of God- and that I could just have a good time with the dance.

   There was Richard who was one of the first to marry in our high school class, and he married my wife's best friend, Louise. They married young and divorced before I even got married, and Loiuse, a high school beauty, was now a depressed, aging alcoholic. There was my friend, Ted, kind, heart of gold, a little awkward, and never married. There was Linda who screamed when she saw me and hugged me and said "Oh Jon, you haven't changed a bit"! And I walked away saying to myself "I've never in my life, ever, seen that woman before"! And there was my life long friend Jay, with his wife of 40 years, now a grandparent three times. How did that happen to us who played stickball in my backyard after school and went to summer camp together?

   And then, I found myself standing in front of the Memorium Board. Here were all the people in my class who were no longer living: Carl, who died right after graduation; Tom, who was walking on the ice on Bullough's Pond when he fell through and drowned.... And there was my closest friend, Billy. Bill's family was my second family. If I was not home, I would likely be at his house, hanging with the guys. We were there one Saturday afternoon just being 14 year old bad boys when our friend, Lester, called, and we passed the phone around giving him a hard time. Just seconds after the call ended, the phone rang again and I said "Give me that phone.... What do you want you little shithead!?"... "I'd like to speak to my son, Jon...." "Yes, Mrs. Myers".

    It took me many weeks before I had the courage to show my face at Billy's house. Mr. Myers answered my hesitant knock and he said to me "Billy's in the den.... And the little shithead is in the kitchen if you want to say hi".

   Billy and I were always together- always getting into mischief. Well, not entirely true. "We" would get into mischief, but he was the one who always got caught. In that long moment standing before his picture, I had such a deep ache of missing him. When I thought of his death 22 years ago, and looked around me at 50 years passing in the blink of an eye, I thought "Do we really need reminders that life is short"? The answer, I think, is that we do. We keep needing reminders to wake up, to come alive, to watch the parade and to try to stay in the moment. And in this moment, I was sad and grateful and aware of the separation from a friend of the heart.

   With Love and Respect, JonJon

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