We arrived at our motel on Friday at 6pm.  We were on the road back home by 2pm on Saturday.  It was a whirlwind trip with a roller coaster of emotions.  I’m still processing.

Our beloved college professor, Terry, passed away suddenly on April 13th.  A memorial event was almost immediately organized to coincide with our college theatre building’s 60th anniversary, which already had its own event.

Many of us gathered at Dennis and Julie’s house the night before for grilling, Kubb and many versions of the game “do you remember.”  I’m reminded each time I see these people that I wish I could see them much more often, and if I can take anything positive away from this tragedy, it’s that I got to see all those lovely faces.

Every exchange with every acquaintance, both at Dennis and Julie’s and at the memorial, started the same way.

“Oh my god hi!  It’s so good to see you!  How’re you doing?”

And as we smile widely at each other the crushing weight of the day settles in, and the conversation grinds to a halt as both parties try to figure out a proper segue from utter delight to monumental loss.  Mostly we just smirked and shrugged and tried our best to keep going.

The memorial was beautiful.  They were given Pease Auditorium to use, and over the course of two hours we were treated to stories, performances and memories from Terry’s former students, colleagues, family members and friends. (Side note: as I was just typing “former students” the predictive text suggested it should be “forever students,” and I found that to be quite astute of the predictive text.) The greater majority of that two hours involved me asking myself: “should I take out my tissues now, or can I get by with a sniffle and discreet swipe of my sleeve?”  Even when I wanted to laugh, which, when a memorial is being presented by a bunch of theatre nerds, was often, I was afraid to outright guffaw, as I could feel the sobs lurking just behind the laughter, and I feared releasing one would release them both.

Terry’s husband and son, John and Joe, closed out the service.  I can’t imagine the devastation they must feel, and my heart breaks for them and the weight of their loss.

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Our group met at Abe’s Coney Island, our old college hangout, after the service for lunch.  Things we learned:

  1. The $1.99 breakfast is now $3.99.
  2. Shade will be thrown by friends and staff if you order an omelet with nothing in it.
  3. One of the same waitresses from 20 years ago is still there.
  4. Their coffee is still great, in that it is wet and caffeinated.
  5. Greasy food, coffee and friends is still one of my favorite combinations.

Gratitude is something I’ve been working on lately.  It’s very easy for me to be frustrated by the things I don’t have, and using that energy to be grateful for the things I do have has been a real brain changer for me.  I don’t necessarily believe in any higher power, but I have been silently saying grace before every meal, and that one small act puts me in a much happier mindset.

I’ve often mocked my own college experience.  Who majors in Literature and minors in Theatre Arts?  A guy who wants to be a massage therapist many years later, that’s who.  But I wouldn’t be who I am without having these amazing relationships in my life, and so I wouldn’t change any of it, and I am grateful for that.

I am grateful Terry was in my life, if only for a little while many years ago.

Be well, friends.

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