I was already feeling nostalgic Sunday afternoon. I had been at the Cardinal High School graduation ceremony, taking photos for work.

It was one of the first high school graduations I had been to since my own. I went to the one for the class behind me, and I attended my nephew’s reception last year but, as the ceremony was a Sunday evening several hours away, I couldn’t stay for that part.

So attending Cardinal’s ceremony brought back memories of my own as well as those for friends that were a year ahead and behind me. It brought back memories of high school in general. It’s amazing what seemed like the end of the world then has transformed itself to “carefree” memories.

But that nostalgia came on in full gear Sunday evening. I was casually scrolling across Facebook when I came across the news of a high school friend passing away.

It shocked me. I knew she had been in the hospital with some serious issues, but I assumed, maybe naively, that she would pull through. We’re still pretty young, after all.

Although I hadn’t seen my friend in probably 15 years, we connected through Facebook several years ago, and I always hoped we would reunite some day, maybe at the annual Fourth of July celebration in our hometown or some sort of all-school reunion that’s held every few years. I’m sad to know that will never happen.

The news of her passing got me flipping through old photos and yearbooks. In my mind, it doesn’t seem that long ago. Reality says otherwise. My friend was a year ahead of me in school, and her graduation was 19 years ago this weekend.

While I don’t have one or two memories that stand out above the others, I have lots of good memories of everyday moments: eating lunch in the cafeteria, cruising the loop, graduation and my junior prom.

She even helped me on my American lit test one day. It was a required class for all juniors. I had recently broken my wrist by clipping a hurdle in a track meet and could not write for myself. I couldn’t ask any of the other juniors for assistance as they had to take the same exam, so my friend sacrificed her study hall to dutifully write down my answers for me as we sat in the hallway outside the classroom. In high school, that’s a good friend. (And yes, I went to the aforementioned junior prom with a cast on my wrist).

We were closest my junior year of high school. After that, she moved away, and I followed suit a year later, in the opposite direction. I’m glad Facebook helped us reconnect, but I still feel saddened we will never get to do so in person.

As many seniors in our area graduated last weekend, and many more, including our Ottumwa High School seniors, will do so this weekend, I encourage you to take in the moment and create as many memories with your friends as you can. Some things may seem dramatic now, but you’ll look back on the memories with fondness.

Also, cherish your friends. You may go your separate ways, but it’s easier now than ever before to stay in touch. Before you know it, nearly 20 years will have passed, and you never know when you’ll truly have to say goodbye.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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