Believe it or not . . .
There were many folks at the class reunion who had gray/white hair, a wrinkle here and there and a few pounds to spare. Most had aged extrememly well! Only one person looked at me several times, then at my name tag and then told me who I am. Not a problem--I wasn't sure who she was either. It was gratifying to visit with each other, catch up on the intervening years and experience the sincere concern each felt for the other. For the most part, everyone was real. It was good to hear of families, careers, etc. Some have retired; some have not.
We had already been saddened early in 2012 to learn of the passing of a classmate from cancer and then shortly before the reunion we learned of another classmate being killed in a wreck. We learned the first night we were together that Alma Bennett, who had planned to be present, was put in hospice care just this past week. Still others have lost spouses (Linda Dawn Burnett, who was married to Erwin Wright, also in our class, lost him to a brain tumor in the mid nineties; Annie Ruth Pipkins Thigpen was widowed several years ago; Sandra Trest Sisson lost her husband not quite a year ago.) Carol Neal Fleming and her husband, Jimmy had two children with Cystic Fybrosis who would have been 35-45 years old had they survived their childhoods. Remembering that always makes me sad.
Dr. Lamar Neal came from some distance, I might add and he shared some of his Belhaven memories. He told the group that he didn't give many A's and never an A+ but once--to Polly Bullard Woods. No one was surprised by that. Dr. Morton Smith sent an e-mail that was read to the group. Mrs. Bewey Bowden, former speech teacher, always a beautiful woman was there and looked the same as when she taught us. (I had the special privilege of having her teach six weeks in my seminary homiletics class.) She told us that she was 29 when she began at Belhaven which means she has to be in her early eighties now. Wow! She has taken up painting and the college had a display of some of her works set up in the Alumni House. We all laughed when she confessed to going to the Dean of Students and calling him a "pompous idiot." Just think. It took fifty years to learn that professors and students shared many of the same thoughts.
Many things at Belhaven have changed, buildings particularly. Some have been refurbished, some replaced and new construction continues. It was exciting to hear of the plans for the future and the ways God has blessed the college--now university. But much remains the same: Christ-centered education, dedicated, caring teachers and people!! My life has been so blessed by friends made there, the church affiliation I had, and, of course, the education received. Those of us who were there came away with a committment to get together more often to celebrate our lives and our friendships.
I was invited to have the opening prayer and blessing at our dinner Friday evening. As I thought about what would be included in that prayer I decided on closing with the benediction that my pastor uses on Sundays: in the name of the Father who has made us, the Son who has set us free and the Holy Spirit who makes us one. Throughout the weekend, as we shared memories, spoke of joys and sorrows and talked of families, I was more and more aware of just why there was such love and concern present. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us one. Praise God for such a place as Belhaven and for friendships which had their beginnings on the "dear green hill."