- how to read critically
- believe radically
- write creatively
- think deeply
- share intimately
- celebrate spontaneously
- help compassionately
- dwell communally
- explore courageously
I only learned how to embrace life and pursue my dreams.
Only everything that matters when you’ve just turned 21.
And you’re driving out the gate into the Real World with a diploma in your hand and an editorial job at Carolina Country magazine!
I wanted to change the world. As did my best friends.
Perhaps we did. Time will tell…
“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain…”
It’s not surprising that Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics to “In My Life” perfectly capture my feelings after a whole weekend college reunion with the friends of my youth.
Why not return? Why not revisit? Knowing how I prefer one-to-one conversation as opposed to mass crowds, I helped gather a few close friends a day in advance to regroup in the mountains that had been the setting for our countless camping trips…
We had all lived our lives focused on a variety of vocations and locations. Yet the years melted away as we shared. Connie said that it was easy because we had been close and vulnerable so long ago. I remember wishing back then that community would never end.
Beth’s reunion gift was a bundle of my letters to her when I was ages 18-23. Extensive and detailed – these were the musings and wonder of a young woman navigating the delicate dance from youth to adulthood during a turbulent and changing time.
(1974 Cindy to Beth) “I think I realize now more than ever before the stark reality of our parting and separate ventures. I try to view all this with courage. Course, that’s just a matter of maturity into life itself. But I’m also seeing more than a mere physical separation – pursuits are branching out. Last night (amidst those hallowed few who are so dear to me) I became quite melancholy, wondering how long the ties would last.”
The ties lasted. (Remember, two of of those things I learned during college were how to “share intimately” and “dwell communally”.) The very names that filled those letters were the same people with whom I was gathered this weekend. And the years and angst all melted away…
“All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall…”
I hugged everyone. I rejoiced that we were all in one place because we were survivors. We had taken the world by storm, all suffered a few blows, yet emerged limping and laughing to stand arm in arm and sing sweet baby James’ “You’ve Got A Friend” while Mac, Russ and Dave played guitar, harmonica and washboard.
There were also things I needed to say to some folk. Like my professor Dr. Albert Blackwell, now retired professor emeritus. And what a treasure that afternoon was as we sat in lawn chairs overlooking the campus and mountain escarpment and shared a lifetime of discoveries. I thanked him for being my first Renaissance man. For ‘setting the bar high’ for me in knowing what and who I wanted in life. For teaching me that faith is both believing and doing. That we are to love God with all our minds, hearts and souls. And that there is great beauty in the world of nature, literature, music, art, and humans.
When we dropped by his home to greet Marian, I saw the Schleiermacher bust, the well-loved piano and volumes of books. Their children I babysat for are now a classics professor at Furman and an administrator and musician at Harvard. They spoke of community involvement, playing in senior orchestras, teaching adult classes, writing new books, and pouring into the lives of young people. And I realized “I still want to be like them when I grow up.” But maybe, just maybe – by God’s grace – I am sort of like them already…
“Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all…”
My roommate Chris was brilliant and beautiful – our valedictorian. She died far too young – at 29. I must admit, it was hard to be on campus without her, but I am grateful her baby girl survived that accident and later also graduated from Furman.
Most of all, this weekend we celebrated. We laughed. We hugged. We guffawed at the fabulous 40 minute slideshow of our days of bell-bottoms and long stringy hair (both the guys and the gals, I might add). We shared current family photos and old “remember whens”. We did not exclude. We did not critique. We were all one. Because we had started off together and helped launch each other out into a world to live our unique Stories…
“Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more…”
My own life of writing, speaking, ministry, raising four children and 30 years of marriage to an incredible man has been far too full to return to Furman with any sort of regularity. (Imagine, being an English major who got to spend her whole life telling stories – dreams do come true) But I will always be eternally grateful that I was able to attend my 40th reunion. It was a reminder to keep going. To keep relearning all those lessons, even as I enter a new season of life.
Furman University Class of ’74, you Rock! Whether or not we changed THE world perhaps is not so important. For I know we changed OUR worlds.
May we continue to do so…
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
– Tennyson, “Ulysses”
under the mercy, Cindy
©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Thanks to Eric Berg and Vickie Dayhood and Shelley Smith Hobson and Cindy Windham Duryea and Connie Crowe Jones for sharing your reunion photos with me — I stole some for this blog!