In 1972 I was in the 8th grade. This was before personal computers but after the Apollo 11 moon landing and the world was very different place. That year, a singular event changed the trajectory of my life in a bigger way than anything that happened to me before...or since. There have been more important events to be sure, such as getting married and seeing my son born. But nothing had more of an impact on who I am at age 55 than that one fateful day in 1972. And what happened, you ask? I went roller skating...
My friend Steve Semmler had been inviting me to join him for youth group at New Garden Friends Meeting for a while, but rollerskating sounded fun and Becky Meredith was going to be there- so I was IN! That invitation and that event led me becoming involved with a group of people who carried and guided each other through high school and the years that followed. These were quite literally the people who "showed me the way" in life, in faith and in love. As we grew older the group expanded and changed, with friends of friends becoming so intertwined in our "gang" that it felt as if they had always been there. We continued to meet together, eat together and even take trips together until the early 1990s, by which time so many of my friends had children that it became a little complicated to plan such things. We have remained in touch over the years- some more that others- but time and distance did seem to separate us. Living in Florida while most live in NC, and with all that has happened in my life over the past 20+ years, the distance often felt real to me. And then 2015 happened.
Steve called me from his home in Ohio with a proposition. He, his brother Carl, myself and our spouses would rent a 3 bedroom condo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC- not far from where our friends Beth and Bob owned one. We would then put the word out to the rest of our old youth group and other friends that were going and invite them to join us. Steve booked 2 condos instead of one, and we were off and running. We set September 9-13 as the dates. I built a Facebook page to get the word out. Our former youth leader, Rob, stepped in and offered to offset the cost for everyone. And before we knew it, some 43 years after our first adventure together, about 15 of us were getting ready to do it again. The excitement was palpable.
But that wasn't the only emotion at work in us. One of our own, the sweet, energetic, feisty and lovely Lisa Ramos Moran, is battling pancreatic cancer. We weren't sure if she would survive until September, much less be able to join us, and some of the air came out of the balloon. There were many texts and phone calls, many prayers and many tears as we worried about Lisa and her family. By late August most of us assumed she wouldn't be able to make the trip as she was confined to a hospital. But our old gang remained united in hope.
One week ago today we took that trip. Very seldom in life can an event with such high expectations actually surpass them, but this one did. We still love each other. We still make each other laugh hysterically. We still enjoy just BEING together. Being at the beach always makes life a bit more special, and the fact that Lisa and her hubby Dan were able to join us for Friday night made it a blessing beyond words. All-in-all, there were 21 of us who were a part of the adventure. The people in the picture at the top were all part of a youth group (along with others who were missing) at a small Quaker church over 40 years ago, and they are still a huge part of each other's lives. That is rare, and it is significant.
In many ways it is amazing that we stay in touch and all took the time needed to pull off something like this. What is even more amazing is how much we still sincerely love each other. The last night there was lengthy discussion about how often we should try to do a "reunion," with some saying every 5 years, others saying 3 and others every other year. Tammy cut to the chase. She said we need to do it every year, and I backed her up. When others asked why, we simply pointed to our friend Lisa. We are not promised tomorrow, much less 5 years. No one argued. And now, this morning, word reaches us that Lisa has taken a turn for the worse. We may see each other soon under very different circumstances. But as always, the love we share will sustain us.
Life has been tough lately. But more than ever I understand the words of the late Warren Zevon when David Letterman asked what he had learned about life while knowing he was dying- "Enjoy every sandwich." Prayers please, for Lisa, Dan and their family. And for all of us.
Because of Jesus,