Last Thursday, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I learned that a former girlfriend from High School, then close friend, who grew up in the same church as me, and was a member of the Youth Group, whom I hung around with at school, at church, on weekends.... Robyn passed away last Tuesday.
I wish I could say since then that I've felt better every day. But I haven't. In fact, until yesterday, I felt worse every day. I had written a letter to Robyn's Mom on Sunday, and as I re-read it Monday morning, a song came on the radio from the time we had dated. I lost it. It was a "catharsis," I suppose. Throughout the day, I was in contact via email with Robyn's best friend, whom we both had been friends with. She also was in that Church Youth Group, and High School, and group of friends. I found comfort in talking with her. And yet another friend from that group during that time emailed, then called me. We hadn't talked in 20 years.
As I was talking to a friend here today, and I described the events since last Thursday, he told me that there are generally two types of people when it comes to the High School experience.
The first group, when they graduate, look at High School and say, 'there are 6 or 8 or 10 people here I care about. But High School is over, and it's time to move on.' This group may or may not keep up with the people they cared about, for a variety of reasons.
The second group, when they graduate, look at High School and say 'I love these people, I love this place, and no matter where I go I will always look back to these friends and this time as the best days of my life, and I will remain in contact with them forever.' Some of these folks even settle down right there, near the school, or in that town -- often their "hometown." And, they usually try to keep that same group of friends, or at least stay in touch.
My friend told me today that there is also a third group. This third group leaves thinking they are in the first group, and though they plan or think about keeping in touch with the people they cared about, over the years, they get so focused on the events and changes and circumstances in their own life that they mostly lose touch. Then, one day, someone from back in those High School days, someone they cared deeply for and who greatly impacted their life, suddenly is gone. Then this person wishes they had been in the second group instead of the first. My friend called this their "Big Chill moment."
This is of course a reference to the 1983 motion picture, which was both popular at the box office and lauded by the critics. In the movie, a group of college friends reunite for the funeral of one of their college buddies, who has died (in the film he committed suicide). This turns into a weekend reunion of sorts, and the drama develops around this reunion, the resolution of past conflicts and the realization that some relationships are too important to neglect or forget.
My friend told me that I'd had my "Big Chill moment." I was in that third group he described that for a multitude of reasons left behind people I cared about, only to discover later that some of those friendships were worth sustaining. That's the lesson the characters in "The Big Chill" learned.
It's ironic, but my senior year in college, I was part of another group -- 3 guys, 3 girls -- who became incredibly close friends. We did everything together, from playing racquetball to going to movies to going out to eat and to the mall...We even did an all night "Star Wars" movie marathon. Hey, it was 1987, the VCR was a relatively new thing, and so were video rentals. I know I'm dating myself.... Anyway, one of the girls, Leigh, dubbed our group "The Big Chill Gang."
I haven't spoken to Leigh in at least a dozen years. I've got to catch up with them too. Why?
Because life, friendships, are too precious to let go for so long that when your friends are gone, you find out and wish you'd tried more diligently to keep up with them. To wish you'd had that one last conversation and told them what a difference they'd made in your life.
I won't be watching "The Big Chill" on DVD anytime real soon. I couldn't take it. And besides, I'm going to try to live so that I never have another "Big Chill moment." I can at least try -- because there are some people in this world I need to thank, and hug, so they'll know... Just how much they've meant to me.