Remembering Those Who are Gone

by John Folmar

I was quite social in high school, but had long since lost touch with the majority of my classmates. I was filled with anticipation and some anxiety over seeing them at the 25th reunion of Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, California. But I looked forward to exchanging information about missing classmates, with thoughts of trying to contact some in the near future.

One thing I had given little thought to, however, was that some people who had touched my life so many years ago might have died. Although life takes its toll at any age, this was only my 25th high school reunion. I naturally placed all my thoughts and feelings into what it would be like to be reunited with former classmates. Because I’d never attended a reunion before and had not considered this inevitability, I envisioned an enjoyable evening of catching up and sharing what we had done with our lives.

The reunion committee planned just such an event and did an excellent job of helping us remember those who have passed on, in a thoughtful and tasteful fashion.

After I arrived I had some quiet time to absorb the decorations and memorabilia display the committee organized. I examined numerous collages of articles, photographs and knickknacks posted on the walls about former teachers, students and events in high school.

Two tables were covered with dozens of flickering candles. There were several dozen 81/2 x 113 framed photographs of classmates and teachers, many of whom I once knew. The reunion committee had displayed pictures of classmates on one table and teachers on an adjacent table.

We shared what we knew about each individual and discovered how much each teacher and classmate had touched some aspect of our lives. What could easily have become a macabre moment turned into a joyous moment of reflection upon the good of each person.

I discovered later that everyone was grateful that the committee had taken the time to remember those who had passed on and had done so in such a tasteful and thought-provoking manner.

We viewed a DVD that highlighted people and events during high school. Laughing, clapping and occasionally groaning over embarrassing moments, we all enjoyed the sights and sounds of long-ago memories. The DVD introduction included photographs of each classmate and teacher who had died. No mention or reference was made to when or why the people died; simply memorializing them was enough.

About the author
John Folmar, PhD, lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where he is a practicing audiologist (hearing and balance disorders) and works for a new hearing aid start-up company. He attended Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, CA. He enjoys golfing, mountain biking and going to the movies.

Video Above: Memorial for members of the Clarksdale (Mississippi) High School Class of 1980 made for their 35th reunion. Photographed and produced by Calvin (Juice) Clark.