Gustafson: Goodbye old friend

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

We all grow up within our own particular realities — a family, a home, a small town, a neighborhood or community. Depending how we’re brought up, we are either deeply conscious of those connections and influences or peripherally aware of it. Regardless of how life unfolds, we are impacted by those who have dwelt in our sphere.

During the final days of school this year, with summer excitement buzzing around the public school campus, I watched with a heightened sense of enthusiasm as kids burst out of the school doors, running and laughing and ready to embrace the summer vacation. I was struck by the nostalgia of how that moment of high school graduation feels; the uncertainty, the possibilities and the future that exists outside of the classroom walls.

I saw seniors circling the parking lot almost elated but not sure where to go; their cars decorated with streamers, painted with class of 2018, music pumping, the hugs and banter coupled with the chaotic euphoria of earned freedom that comes with genuine apprehension.

I remember feeling so connected to my classmates, and yet certain those times were screeching to a halt.

Twenty years have passed since I walked the stage of the Benedict Music Tent donning my cap and gown. Within one year of that moment, I attended services to lay two of my former classmates to rest after a car accident.

It was a sad foreshadowing of years to come in which I would more frequently reconnect with my former classmates at memorial services than at weddings or baby showers. Each time we share hugs and memories and we exclaim that “We need to stop meeting at these events, it’s been too long, let’s get together, I’ve missed you.” But still we meet again, all too soon, to mourn.

I realize what it means to grow up in a small town, how the extensions of family break barriers and how we find our way back to one another with a stronger desire to be connected. I realize there are so many people who I see everyday who effected the person I have become. But I can’t help but wish I had better known so many of those who have left us.

It’s a strong reminder to make time, to mean it when you ask the question, “How are you?” and to listen to the answer. Call that friend instead of liking’his or her new baby photo on Facebook or Instagram.

Each time I sit at a service and listen to the reminiscing of how much one person has touched the lives of so many, I understand, even more, how each member of our small community has a radiating influence on everyone around them. The degrees of connection we each have to one another here is often only one or two.

Tell a teacher, a coach or neighbor what they mean to you. Call a close friend to catch up, hug your child deeply, thank the bus driver, extend compliments beyond appearances, make time. Life is fragile and short, and these are the faces you will think of when today becomes tomorrow, and yesterday is but a fleeting dream.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at


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