Today my husband and I went to the funeral of a former student who lives in a community about an hour south of Kansas City. He was one of our favorites, but time has slipped past us, often at break-neck speeds, and it has been years since Jim or I had seen or spoken with him.
I was sorrowed when I heard the news but unprepared for the grief I felt when I arrived at the funeral home. He was a young man -- only 46 -- with two grown sons and grandchildren. Way too young to die.
Seeing his sisters (whom we also taught) and other former students brought a flood of memories: Friday night football games, taco parties on Super Bowl Sundays, taking the freshman class to Worlds of Fun, Jim's driving a school bus to Colorado on the senior trip, working on the school newspaper.
Jim and I left the school district and moved to Kansas City after Buddy's senior year. We kept in touch regularly at first, but then job demands and our children's activities kept us busy, drawing us away from these special people who had been such a big part of our lives.
The last time I saw Buddy was at a football game in a Kansas City suburb. I don't remember why we were there or what teams were playing, but I do remember a tap on the shoulder, and I turned around to see a bald-headed man grinning from ear to ear. For a moment it didn't register, then I recognized the once curly-headed boy I'd known was standing before me. I cried, "Buddy!" and gave him the biggest hug.
I wish he had been there today, so I could have hugged him one last time.