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Life’s quick passing visible in hindsightcomment (0)

September 4, 2003

By Betty Baggott


The afternoon was hot, and clouds dotted the sky. It felt strange to be one lone figure sitting on the steps of the Academy of Richmond County in Augusta, Ga. By now the classmates of my 50th reunion had returned to their homes. I had stayed over a few days to visit with my sister. I found a seat on the top step — some 25 steps in all — observing the tall magnolia trees. My mind raced back in time.

On another day as a young girl in high school as I had watched baby trees planted I had said to myself: “One day I will come back and those trees will be all grown up. Wonder how many years it will take?”

I didn’t weep openly, but there was something tugging at my heart — a feeling that I wanted to cry. Instead, I just sat there quietly. The night before when those returning for the reunion were allowed to tour the school buildling, I knew I had to find my way to those steps before leaving Augusta.

How the years pass, and all too quickly. I tried to imagine the emotions I felt as I relived that day years ago. At that point in time the boys and girls who scrambled up and down the steps had no idea of their future. Neither did I. Teenagers. We could see only faces, not the hearts.

I sat and thought, reflecting on the distant past and weekend I had just spent with my graduating class. The faces were the same (a little wrinkled), but the hearts more transparent. Talk was not superficial but centered on things that mattered — hearts of gratitude for the joys of life and a sharing of the valleys.

There was shock for those members who had passed away. Being a graduating class of 500, 35 members seemed a small number not to be with us anymore. I suppose the hardest thing for me was to answer the question from those who did not know: “Hi, Betty — where’s Bob?”

God handled both nights, not only for me but for others who shared the burden of grief. Of course we know there are all kinds of grief. Hardly a life had not been touched in some way through the years.

The laughter was there. People were getting cross-eyed from going around trying to read name tags.

“Betty Dempsey, I never would have recognized you in a million years.”

I didn’t know whether to be happy or cry. Some people were thin, some were fat, others had no hair. Some women wondered why a head of hair could stay blonde after all these years. I decided only my hairdresser knew.

I read the class prophecy that I had written. Only one thing I had predicted had come to pass. But that was all right, for at that time years ago I was looking at my fellow classmates and judging them as I saw them to be, not even thinking about what God could do with them and with me in the years to come.

Just as I had when Bob and I went to my 20th high school class reunion — but even more this time — I had the strange compulsion to go around and speak to everyone in that room, tell them I loved them and wish the best for them. There was that feeling that this would be the last time I would see some of them — which ones I did not know.

It was time to get up off the steps and head home. My car was packed. I took one last look at the trees I loved as a young girl in high school. They were stately, strong and had weathered many a storm.

But is that not true of all of us? It is but a brief span from senior high to adulthood. Within me I know I have grown.

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