I was asked to speak a few years ago at a small memorial service remembering the students, faculty, and staff of T C Roberson High School who had passed away. The service was part of a multi-class reunion held during a home coming weekend. Being an alumnus of Roberson, I felt honored by the invitation and surprised to see how many graduates came from across the five decades that Roberson had been in existence to honor their friends and classmates who are no longer with us.
During the service a candle was lit for each decade and a student from that time read the names of those who had died. Some died in war defending our country, some died from illness, some died in accidents, some died by their own hand, and some have been tragically missing for years and have yet to be found.
All the names that were read had one thing in common beyond the fact they had all been part of T C Roberson. The common thread is that their days disappeared far to soon.
They were all remembered that morning and remembered fondly by all who came.
I read somewhere that the rest of those who have gone before us cannot steady the unrest of those to follow. As each name was read and I glanced around the room and I could see when a name was recognized a small smile would appear or a single tear would be slowly wiped from their eye.
It was in those simple acts alone that I realized that wounds don’t always heal with time. Wounds can also grow deeper with time and losses can linger forever. We may learn how to deal with them, but we never forget. Maybe we aren’t supposed to forget.
Memories take us back to places and times that we never thought we would see again. They fill us with happiness and sorrow. They can keep us grounded if we let them and move us forward to becoming who we are if we don’t dwell on them too long.
Memories tell us where we been but they don’t direct us where we are going. We have to move on past them without losing them or what they meant to us. There is too much ahead of us to spend too much time in what went before. But the time we spend there should not lose its importance.
William Faulkner once wrote “The past isn’t dead…it isn’t even past.” Those who have gone before will always, in some way, be with us. Their promise and hope that was taken so early serves as a reminder of what we are still left here to do.
In looking back at their lives and mine I find I have felt no loss of hope through these ensuing years, as I have grown older. I only feel a great deal this world’s weight upon my shoulders, as there are so many hurting and so much left to do before the light grows dim in our final hours.
So to all who were remembered this day, thank you for what you have left us, the smiles and tears alike. Goodbye and farewell – we will meet again somewhere beyond the sky. You have helped made us who we are and filled our hearts with joy and in this life I’ve been so blessed to know you – goodbye, my friends, goodbye.