An Exciting Opportunity

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” my best friend texted. Though I couldn’t hear her voice, I knew she was bursting with excitement at the prospect of us attending our 40-year high school reunion together. “Let’s go!” she encouraged.

With a smile, I let her excitement catch the tinder of my reservations to a reluctant smolder. “I was actually planning a trip home around that time anyway. I am sure I could make it work.”

“Woohoo!” she burst out, her eagerness pouncing on this opportunity with gusto. “I’m so excited!”

“Really? I wasn’t sure,” I responded with a smirk.

She chose to ignore my jab and blazed on like the glorious force of nature she is. “I’ll send you all the information and we’ll make plans!”

“Sounds good,” I say, the undergrowth of reservations already rising up to try to squelch the spark of anticipation I had begun to feel.

Doubts Surface

Now that I am back home after the reunion, I am so grateful to my life-long friend for taking me along on a ride that I would never have embarked upon alone. High School reunions are often catalyst events. They let loose a tidal wave of memories. They spur retrospection and introspection and for me, this reunion held pitfalls that I wasn’t sure how to approach. Since our 10-year reunion, I have carried on while several beloved people have departed this realm to begin their next adventure without me.

As I contemplated the approaching reunion, I could hear the questions, the conversations that would come. “What are you doing?”, “Married?”, “Kids?”, (and unique to this 40-year experience) “Grandkids?” Honestly, the daunting prospect of the “kids?” question, 2 ½ years after my eldest son passed, had me regretting my decision to attend.

Facing it Head On

Eventually, I was dreading the reunion. My conflict over how to answer a question that should bring so much joy had me tied in knots. One day I will learn to ‘deal’ with a problem before it has a chance to cause me needless pain. I guess I’m not there yet.

When my dread had gotten so bad it was affecting my mood, I had no choice. I sat down with it, looked it in the face and said, ‘ok, what am I going to do?’

Do I have kids? Hell yes! I have 2 amazing sons who have brought me endless joy and pride. My eldest son is no longer with us. He is forever 20 and his younger brother is now 20 too.

As usual, something that had seemed dreadfully insurmountable while I let it stalk me, turned out to be quite simple when I turned to face it. I thought about the people I would be interacting with and considered that my response may cause them discomfort. I would never deny Errol, my eldest. He is still a very real part of my life and always will be, but how to respond in a way that is true to him, true to me and still considerate of my class-mate’s feelings? I gave it a lot of thought, going over various responses in my mind until I found a response that felt right.

Telling My Truth with Compassion

It was pure joy to wrap my arms tight around my most enduring friend and feel her buzzing with excitement when she picked me up to go to the reunion. She surprised me with matching pink ‘go-cups’ with our names and “40th High School Reunion” penned in her impeccable pre-school teacher’s hand. Her thoughtful spirit has only grown in the years since graduation. As it turns out, that was a reoccurring theme.

In 40 years, the pretense and eager conformity had been shed my most of my schoolmates revealing beautiful, rich personalities. It was a real pleasure to discover the beauty we were too insecure to express all those years ago.

When the question finally came, we were sitting in a group, warm with shared memories. When someone toward the other end of the table first asked, “Do you have kids?” I let confidence grow inside me so that when the eyes turned to me, I let my pride in my boys shine on my face and said with a genuine smile, “I have 2 fabulous boys. My eldest is eternally 20 as he passed 2 ½ years ago and my youngest is now 20 too and is in university.” As I finished speaking, still smiling, wrapped in my love for both boys, there was a chorus of, “Oh, I’m sorry, but what a beautiful way to put it.”

The pitfall had come, and I had crossed it with the support of those around me – having built a bridge out of honesty, openness, love and a little bit of vulnerability.

Read more by Colleen: Riding the Ebb and Flow of Grief – Open to Hope

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Colleen Friesen

Who is Colleen Friesen? I am a proud mother, a blessed wife, a blossoming daughter, a compassionate and supportive sister and friend. I have the peace-loving, inclusive heart of a hippie which serves me well in my role as Associate Director of Human Resources at the Community-based non-profit agency that employs me. I am a prairie girl who harbours a love-hate relationship with the climate of the glorious Saskatchewan prairie that is my home. I have loved to use words to lead others along with me through my experiences – both real and imagined throughout my life. I consider myself a word crafter – sometimes choosing to paint, other times sketch, oftentimes sculpt, frequently clip/paste/gluing words and phrases together in such a way that will draw my reader into a soul-synergy with me. It is my hope that I can draw people close, so they are able to experience the reassurances, comforts, and freedoms I have found for myself. I have survived devastating losses; I have healed crushing psychological injuries and I live… I LIVE. I live a life filled with joy, love, peace, and presence. I am enjoying the benefits of years of learning, growing, forgiving, loving, and observing. It is my natural compassion and gift of observation that has led me to yearn to bring those who are suffering to the oasis of Truths that sustains me within this world of challenging experiences. The passing of my eldest son almost 2 ½ years ago coalesced my passions for writing and helping into a focused purpose. My greatest accomplishment has been parenting my sons. Both boys are beautiful souls; loving, kind, compassionate individuals who have blessed the lives of those they touch. That was not an accident nor was it easy, but it has been the most rewarding and fulfilling purpose of my life. When my first-born left this dimension, it became imperative for me to carry his beautiful spirit onward. So, now I craft words with his guidance to bring love, hope and comfort to those who grieve.

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