By Joan Endicott
You know those mixed feelings that accompany the anticipation of attending class reunions? So many memories—some good and other not-so-good memories—flood back to you as if some of them were just last week rather than years ago. You feel a bit nervous to see some and can hardly stand how excited you are to see others!
Well, I couldn’t wait to see these classmates. I had enjoyed the 10th and 20th and now was looking forward to the 30th class reunion. I like to say I was quite young when I graduated, though that’s actually not true—I was one of the older ones. More mature? No. Older, yes! The older I get, the more I understand the scripture that says, “Life is but a vapor”…realizing how quickly time passes. We’re all guilty of making the mistake of taking people for granted. Milestones such as reunions emphasize the fact that the only two things in life we can’t replace are people and relationships. That’s it! Everything else is replaceable.
Certainly there are always people we especially look forward to reconnecting and catching up with. I was always excited to see those best girlfriends that I had from grade school, junior high and into high school. WOW! The memories began flooding my heart when I thought of those I couldn’t wait to see. It became even more real when seeing all the names of those registered. Some of these friends had been part of my life since second grade, like Robin, Jani, Darcee, Liz and Kelley, to name a few. I will forever be grateful for these irreplaceable relationships, as well as the fact that their homes were safe places for me to go.
Each name had wonderful memories that flooded me with feelings of love for them—like Robin and me singing, “I’m the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” and doing dance routines to perform for her parents. (Yes, I can still sing every word!) Jani and I had such fun playing with her Little Kiddle dolls. One time we were goofing around and laughing so hard I accidentally fell and broke one. At first I panicked, then we both laughed even harder.
With Darcee, along with lots of laughter, we also had heart-to-heart talks on our walks around the school grounds about tough family issues and future hopes and dreams. Liz and I were clearly super cool as we sang John Denver songs at the tops of our lungs in her basement with the black light on—pretty sure we could have been sporting hip-hugging bell bottoms. Kelley and I also had countless memories of singing together.
Another great memory with her was going on an American Heritage Tour with a whole group of other 13- and 14-year-old students from our area. We visited a variety of major historical sites on the East Coast. One of the highlights on that trip for me was the unexpected emotional response I had when I saw the Statue of Liberty. Even as a 14-year-old, I was in such awe I wept.
About halfway through the trip, Kelley broke her tailbone and I got to be her “nurse” and made sure she was taken care of for the rest of the trip. We grew extra close and, of course, had lots of laughs while helping her take care of that broken bum of hers!
The last time I had talked to Kelley was over a year prior to the reunion so I was very excited to see her, hug her and catch up!
Finally it was the night of the reunion! Trying to get caught up with people or even talk to all of those I wanted to was really impossible in the time allowed. But it was so fun trying. We hugged, laughed, and shared past memories and current family stories.
As dinnertime approached, I was the last one to go through the buffet line. (Not surprised, are you? Well, I was too busy visiting—no time to eat!)
At the end of the buffet line sat the memory board of the classmates we had lost. And then I saw her face…the sweet face of one who had been one of my best friends from second grade on…Wait…what…this can’t be! I looked around. In seconds I had such a plethora of thoughts overwhelm me. I literally went into shock. My first thought was, “Is this some kind of sick, sick joke and she is actually here? I mean, if this is true, surely I would have heard…” Dear God, this just can’t be real. Why was Kelley Carlton’s beautiful face on this memory board? NO! This is NOT right! Tears came instantly, my knees went weak… I felt like collapsing.
I quickly looked around to find someone to ask. I went over to the table where Lori, Rhonda and Ramone were sitting. I could barely get it out. “Kelley…Carlton…?” With the looks on their faces, I lost it. I buried my head in Ramone’s chest and sobbed while she hugged me and said, “Oh I’m so sorry—you didn’t know?”
For those moments, everything else stopped—except my tears. The tidal wave of shock and disbelief felt suffocating. My friends at the table began sharing what had happened. She had been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer and three months later she was gone. Lori and Rhonda had been with her in her last days. Lori told me how she missed Kelley and that she had sat with her every day, having deep conversations. I learned that Kelley’s funeral was standing room only and a beautiful tribute to her life and faith.
After awhile, I realized I needed to put my grief and mourning on hold so I could be present with the other dear friends I was there to see. It was so important for me to take full advantage of the opportunity I had that night to enjoy the loving reconnection with all the friends who were there.
Late that night, as I drove back to where I was staying, tears began again as my soul reflected, What if I had only 90 days ‘til eternity? What would I do? Would I do anything differently? If so, I want to start doing that NOW—living and loving purposefully and intentionally with this heightened awareness of the significance and sacredness of life! Dear God, help me to live my life the way you call me to, with the divine purpose you designed me for—whether I’ll live 99 years or have a mere 90 days ‘til eternity.
Having a mortality mindset shouldn’t be morbid. I’ve found it to actually help motivate me to live and love in a way that I can look back on my life with gratitude. I can tell you for sure that I have waaay, waaay overcomplicated so much of my life with worrying about what others thought, trying to impress, and a fear of missing out (FOMO)—of meeting the right people, being in the right place, and worried that my last training or keynote wasn’t quite good enough because it wasn’t perfect. I thought I needed to do some grandiose things for my life to matter.
Please don’t be like me and overthink or overcomplicate it! We often think our lives aren’t significant because we haven’t done something great, such as curing a horrible disease or winning a Nobel Prize. Friend, please remember that God put you where you are to do what only you can do. He doesn’t want you to try and be anything else. It’s not about doing something great. It’s about doing what you do with great love. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Being able to love and positively impact my precious grandchildren is just as important as when I am speaking on-stage or coaching. Don’t get sucked into what society labels as success. You can’t own your worth nor define your success by looking at anyone other than The One who is our greatest example, Jesus Christ.
In God’s economy He says the two most important things are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31
Kelley and I shared our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. I’m so grateful that I will see her again in heaven someday—and while I’m here I will use my precious memories of her to spur me on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
What would you do if you had 90 days ‘til eternity? No matter what else you do, I encourage you to reflect on how you can become even more intentional and purposeful to live the legacy of love you want to leave.
Grab your FREE copy of Joan Endicott’s “I Get To!”® book at www.JoanEndicott.com. Joan is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author and Coach who’s coaching has reached over 30 countries. Meet her and enjoy her encouraging messages on Facebook and Instagram!