I just returned from a wedding of a good friend from college. When we were younger and idealistic, we all said we’d come celebrate our respective weddings. For Dan, he waited over 20 years to find his sweet bride.
And so on a gorgeous fall day in Connecticut, I found myself sitting with some of my oldest and dearest. People who knew me before I became me. We were an eclectic group who found each other on the campus of a small liberal arts school in Illinois. We came from all parts and scattered back out again like a friendship constellation across the U.S.
I spend so much of my daily life immersed in the life that I’ve created that I rarely think back to when I would squint to envision the future. I was a scholarship kid who showed up at college 2,000 miles away from home with three suitcases. I had never visited the campus, or Illinois, before that first day. Back then, it mattered less where I was going as long as it was forward.
Settled into a wooden booth after the wedding, we reflected on each other in our memories. I was struck by how much there was to still recognize. We didn’t truly form into the people were are today until after college – our collective DNA forming after our paths spread apart. But the early foundation was laid in the trusted friendship of one another.
Over the weekend as I talked to my once steady companions, I reflected on how vivid the memories were. The laughs then that carried us through our insecurities, our mistakes.
Life came at us before we were prepared for it. I’ll never forget running into Lori in the dorm bathroom after Christmas break of our freshman year. She told me her father had died unexpectedly just a week before. I was at a loss for what to say, but she was the first person I called 23 years later from the hospital where my father was hooked up to life support and we were about to turn it off.
I remember standing at the back of the memorial service with Emily when her father passed away just after we graduated from college. I overheard one of his friends say to the other, “Jesus, Ed was just 48 years old.” I remember thinking how far away that felt but how close it was for the man clutching his wine glass and shaking his head. Now, I can see 48 just around the corner and I’m stuck by how very young that is indeed.
A year after graduation, Dan, Koko, Karen and I sat in the apartment small Chicago apartment Karen and I shared lamenting about loves and worries we’ve long since released. Dan and I spinning on the dance floor when Scott and Cheryl got married and then Dan reading a passage from Kahlil Gibran at my own wedding two years later.
And so on a sunny October morning, we shouted “Mazel tov!” as Dan smashed a glass under his foot. Later, we clinked glasses in a toast, shared laughs once more, and toasted “L’chaim.” To life, it means.
Where we once sat with drinks in hand looking forward to what life might be, we now toasted to what it had offered. And what is, hopefully, still to come.