I spent Independence Day flying back from a five-day visit to St. Louis. I grew up in St. Louis and my mother and sister still live there. At 89, mom still lives in the house that I grew up in. My older sister lives nearby. In addition to visiting them, a memorial service for my old friend, Nancy, drew me back to town.
It is interesting that I consider Nancy to be a good friend. She is the mother of high school friends of mine. Her oldest daughter Mary is a good friend of my sister. I was closer to James and Bridget. Nancy’s house was a place to hang out when we were in high school. It was a big old house and James’ lair was in the large attic space. Nancy was always welcoming to us kids and we would stop to chat with her before going about our business.
James and I were close friends doing international folk dancing and later modern dance together. I became estranged from James after he found Jesus in college. He gave up a promising professional dance performance career to become the youth dance minister at an evangelical mega Church. My lack of belief made it hard for me to accept James’ choice.
After her children left for college, Nancy took up folk dancing herself. I saw her regularly when I visited folk dancing during my return trips over the years.
Nancy’s memorial service was in an Episcopal Church. The service was heavy with ritual. It began with a parade of priests and other officiants led by a man carrying a cross (no incense though). The program included call and response, the Lord’s Prayer, Hymns, and communion – as well as words about Nancy by a priest and a few family members. Although I have attended Catholic, Jewish, Methodist, Evangelical, Unity, AME, UCC, and Unitarian memorials, because of my beliefs this was still unfamiliar territory for me.
At the reception afterwards, I had a chance to re-connect with many old friends, some who I have not seen in decades, including Peter who came in from Japan. I had many good conversations, including some with James.
Later that evening there was folk dancing – and another chance to re-connect and dance.
At the reception there was a large table piled deep with multiple copies of photos that Nancy had shot – there for the taking.
Included in this pile were many of my children at various ages and this one of Sarah and me that I particularly liked.
What are my take-aways from this trip? I continue to try to wrap my head around the power of symbolic rituals. They have never affected me but I recognize that many others find deep significance in them. I felt good re-connecting with old friends who I have lost touch with over the years. I am self-aware enough not to resolve to continue to stay in touch – because I know that I won’t. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just in my nature. A poor excuse but a real one.
This trip made me think about who I was when the photo was taken and who I am now along with the good and bad that has happened in between. This trip helped me look back on my life. Something that I find to be beneficial now and then.
Thank you Nancy for who you were and the gifts that you and old friends have given me.