I wrote this as a facebook note in August 2010. It received many positive comments. I attended a mini-high school reunion the other night and this person's name came up. I thought I'd re-post this writing to my blog since it reflects an early attempt at the narrative non-fiction genre I'm taking a stab at here :) I'm also pleased to report that nowadays I rarely feel that ugly stuff I talk about towards the end and I'm wondering if I've crested some sort of marker of maturity since I'm about to turn 45 :)
I went to visit a high school friend’s grave this week.
I have been meaning to do this for awhile now. My boyfriend lives very near the graveyard she is buried in and I see the signs for the graveyard every time I come out to his house in the suburbs near where I grew up.
I was surprised to find that I found her plaque, amidst hundreds of grave markers, within 10 minutes of arriving. The last time I was there was over two decades ago.
She has been gone nearly 25 years exactly. And the time has passed, as the expression goes, in the blink of an eye.
I didn’t expect the visit to be so emotionally charged for me. She and I were never really good friends but we were in school together since grade school and we ended up hanging out with the same gang at the end of high school. We were both quite scholastic and involved in our high school - her with sports and me with nearly everything else (band, drama, student council).
When they announced her name for valedictorian in grade 12 I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I was crushed. I felt the honour of valedictorian was my due for having nearly top marks AND my uber-involvement in school activities. I felt discriminated against since I was not a sports person (I was rather clutzy actually). My mother, who worked at the school in an administrative capacity, informed me that I was not chosen due to my former involvement with a non-academic but very popular boyfriend (this popularity earned him the position of student council president). I was a little bitter but was somewhat vindicated when my average that same year was higher than hers and earned me a scholarship for the last year of high school.
My high school mate chose to take an early university entrance program so she left us in our Grade 13 year. We saw her at holiday breaks and she was thriving and totally enjoying her new found independence at a university away from our hometown. Her university was in the same town as where I was hoping to attend and once my acceptance letter was sent she gave me tips and advice about this town and we were looking forward to socializing there.
In my frosh week I was approached by one of my high school comrades who had also chosen the same university as me. He lived across campus in a different residence so to see him was a bit surprising given how jam packed frosh week activities are. He was quite pale and looked a bit sick. He informed me, with a quivering voice, that our mutual friend had been killed the previous evening in a tragic frosh week pub crawl accident. She was crushed by a crowd trying to get onto a bus. Even today, almost 25 years later, the resonance and power of those words bring tears to my eyes. Such a bloody waste. Such a tragedy. Such promise. Such potential.
Gone. In the blink of an eye.
Her passing has never been far from my mind. This week’s visitation to her plaque brought forth so many thoughts and yes, tears, for my now middle aged understanding and experience of life. One that I have been allowed to achieve and she was not.
I walked throughout the graveyard that afternoon contemplating the fleetingness of life and the futility of my long dead jealousy for her. This mindful meandering also led to musings about other high school comrades - those that have also since passed - and others that I know of (thanks facebook).
And there it was again. Jealousy. After 43 years of life I still find the energy to feel that most futile of emotions. High school is a festering playground for childish emotions and as a full grown adult I can still drum up comparisons that leave me less than and wanting. Ick.
So right then and there a personal resolution was made. If jealousy rears it’s ugly head again I will forcefully show it the door. I have no desire to further entertain an emotion that has never served me well.
At the dawn of my entrance to middle age I see that there are lots of dust bunnies clouding my being. I hope to see this life stage out - so it’s time for spring cleaning...always being mindful that in the blink of an eye this chance could be taken from me.