I had a lovely embrace of a moment with an old friend recently. We encountered each other at a writers conference, after 22 years of living our lives and growing up and out from what we had been when we knew each other: wives of husbands in seminary.
Between us we had criss-crossed our countries, had five kids and I think five books. I saw her first with her husband, and that was a pleasant consuming of sandwiches and swapping of milestones: “We did this, then we did that. We moved here, then we moved there. We had this kid, then we had that kid. This bad thing, and that bad thing. This good thing, and that.” Just what people do.
Later, I ran into her again alone — and that’s how we were back then too — friends together all four, and friends alone us two. I told her that way back then she had taught me something I hadn’t known yet about prayer. Then I told her I wish I had done a thing differently then, acted better (maybe even acted at all) in the face of a sorrow that had entered her life. I had not met real sorrow face-to-face myself, back then, so I didn’t recognize that beast when it crashed into her life. I didn’t act fully enough, I know that. She didn’t remember.
Then she shared a memory of something she felt embarrassed about from way back then, after all these years. I didn’t remember. And back and forth we went for a moment or two, in this strange and humble liturgy: self flagellating failing, met with loving amnesia.
It was so honest and so freeing and such a relief. It’s not even baggage we are talking about, really. It’s the detritus in the bottom of our baggage, the crumpled bits and odd socks that linger in our luggage, adding up and adding weight. And to think we had thrown that stuff in completely on our own, added that weight to ourselves. I’m so happy we had the chance to dump out those bits on the floor and to see them as dust in the light of our happy reunion.