We are blessed in so many ways. We have families, our spouses, our faith and our friends. All of these contribute in positive ways allowing us to become who we are.
Every once in a while we have an opportunity to reconnect with someone from our past who was important to us. Maybe it was someone who briefly touched our lives like a high school teacher or a friend from college. Maybe it was someone who worked with us in a previous job. I have come to the conclusion these meetings are not accidental. I think God is always finding ways to let us know that it is through each other we will find his love.
As an example, I recently returned to Omaha, Nebraska, where I went to visit with some old friends and family. I do this every few years to make sure that my family knows they are loved by me and are very special to my life. I connected a few years ago while on a visit there with my best friends from high school, Joanne and Linda and Nancy and Jerry. I have stayed in touch with them often through social media and text messages and regular phone calls. My friend Joanne came to Oregon to visit for ten days last summer and we had a great time as we reacquainted ourselves with the adults we had become. I feel fortunate and blessed that all of these people are in my life again. Even now, Joanne and I talk at least twice a week on the phone. This is very similar to what we did when we were in high school. I stay in touch with Jerry, Linda and Nancy via text and emails.
One person who came to visit us during my stay in Nebraska was truly a wonderful surprise to see. He was our high school counselor and good friend. It had been over forty years since we had last seen each other. I stayed in touch with him over the years with occasional phone calls and Christmas cards. The amazing thing was the fact that time had not altered our connection as friends. We began talking as if forty years was a blink of an eye. We shared a few meals and a few drinks. Mostly we shared stories of our lives.
He was more than a counselor; he was a good friend. He was responsible for encouraging me in furthering my education because he believed that I had potential to be much more than I had ever imagined for myself. He continually praised me for what he saw as my abilities to become really good at something. “You have a great deal of talent. Don’t be afraid to try out all those skills you have,” he said.
He was readily available to work through some difficult high school and college moments that a true friend would understand. He often expressed concern that I had a great deal of responsibility at such a young age. As he learned more about my life, he came to the conclusion that God was preparing me for what would come later in life.
We talked for several hours at lunch about children, grandchildren and we shared pictures. We experienced joy for each other discussing what family meant for us and our futures. We talked about what brought us the most happiness. We talked about the challenges God had given us to face. I told him about dealing with cancer and how it shaped the last several years of my life. He talked about the blood thinning medicine that contributed to him having a brain injury followed by recovery from surgery. This was equally traumatic for him. We discussed the impact these illnesses had on our families and us personally.
We talked about my writing. He was so proud that I had begun this journey of expression. I wanted him to know about his contribution in my being able to do this. We talked about how life seems short and the last forty years seem to have flown by.
I noticed that when we discussed our work we downplayed our careers, yet I firmly believe we ultimately impacted many people through our work. He worked as a counselor in a hospital until his mid-70’s. I work in insurance and as a manager I have been able to help many people achieve success in their careers. In addition, I have worked as a freelance writer for several Catholic websites which he thought was pretty amazing.
He was pretty humble about the role he played as a counselor, yet he was very complimentary in his praise of me for what I had done in my life. “You have made a difference to so many, Cathy,” he said.
I tried to assure him that he did the same, even if he didn’t realize it. He certainly influenced me and my close friend, Joanne. We were only two of the people he had touched with his wisdom and friendship. Joanne became a teacher and has taught hundreds of children through the years. She, too, felt his influence. I reminded him about how we are now able to “pay it forward” to others. He was still humble about the role he played.
We laughed a lot. We talked about some of my “Lucy” moments with my husband, Jack. We laughed about stories Joanne shared about children she has taught who “say the darndest things.” Mostly, we experienced so much joy at seeing life pass by and knowing we had made a difference to each other in so many positive ways. We even tackled the subject of death. Nothing was off limits.
I walked away from our meeting feeling so many emotions. I felt joy in reconnecting with someone who had known me over 50 years. I felt happiness that even though we had not seen each other in more than forty years, we still were able to connect our friendship. I felt sadness that we may not have another opportunity like this one again.
I truly believe God places people in our lives to help shape the people who we will become. Obviously our parents and our families and teachers, our parish priests and friends; they all play a role. Even those people we didn’t get along with help shape us. I think God wants us to be the best of who we are. I believe He uses all of us to help draw us closer to Him. Jesus’ love is inside each of us and when we look for it and appreciate it, we know that each person we connected with in our lives will always remain in some way with us forever.
Thank you to my friends, Joanne, Linda, Nancy and Jerry but most especially thank you Gene for driving to Nebraska on that Monday this summer. It truly meant so much. God bless you all!
Copyright 2015 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh