Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Counting the Missing: High School Reunions
It’s that time of year for high school reunions. Maybe you’ve been invited to one this summer. Maybe, like me, you’re in between reunions.

Some people are afraid to go, afraid to face the people they knew so long ago. They obsess about their weight, their jobs, their accomplishments, and often wind up talking themselves out of going. Others have only bad memories and are left with no desire to make new ones. Some look forward to the opportunity to reconnect, take stock, and, let’s admit it, brag.

Sometime after the 20th, when most people are focused on bragging, the mood shifts. We spend less time talking about ourselves, and more time catching up with people we only seem to see at these events. And that, too, is when we start keeping count of who’s no longer there.

My class was small: we graduated 122 girls. Forty-two years later, we’ve only lost touch with a handful.

Nine have died: cancer, suicide, anorexia, car accidents, 9/11.

We keep in closer touch since starting our Yahoo group after one of our classmates died in the World Trade Center.

Since the 20th reunion, we meet faithfully every five years. Each reunion has a reassuringly familiar pattern: mass at school, followed by a tour to see ‘what’s new’ and to good-naturedly complain about how lucky those girls are now.

Then we gather at the home of one of our classmates to catch up. Now and then, like at our 40th, we also have a more formal brunch the following day.

At our mass, we continue a tradition that began a long time ago. During the offertory, one rose for every classmate who died is brought up to the altar, and they’re remembered by name.

So we begin our reunion by honoring those who aren’t there, but are still with us.

If you’re headed to a reunion this summer, or helping plan one, how will you remember your classmates who have died?