You would probably be surprised by the number of friends you’ve had in your life: friends from your neighborhood, your school, your church, your first job, your sports team, your theatre group.
But life being what it is, you lose touch, maybe geographically separated, maybe just slipping away because your interests changed.
Then you go to a reunion, or a party. You skim the alumni newsletter. And you discover they’ve died.
Your first reaction may be shock, but your second reaction is likely to be a memory. It might be a memory that now seemed eerie. It might also be a silly or funny memory.
My husband and I sat in Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, three days after 9/11, for an inter-faith service. Just minutes before walking in, I’d found out a classmate from high school was in the South Tower, and missing. By then, we knew that meant she was dead.
As I sat there during the beautiful service, trying unsuccessfully to not cry, a thought kept popping into my mind. We’d gone to an all-girls high school, and one of the things that passed for entertainment in those days was a Hairy Legs Contest (those who didn’t have boyfriends had the best chance of winning).
I was mortified. Could there have been a more inappropriate thought at that moment?
A month later, I was having dinner with a group of my classmates, as we discussed a class gift in Carol’s memory. There, in the safety of friends, I admitted my sacrilegious thoughts. Don’t you remember, one of the women said to me, Carol won the contest.
That may qualify as eerie and silly. But I share it to assure you that these kinds of thoughts are not unusual. At a moment when all around you are crying, and you think you should, too, it’s all right to have a happy memory of your friend who died.
Because in the end, the happy memories are the ones we want others to have of us, too.