The shared path with friends

Opinion: Columns

August 13th, 2019 12:16 PM

By John Hubbuch

For each of the last 39 years in the first week of August, we have vacationed with the same dear friends in northern Michigan. Our number has now increased from the original 12 (six couples) to almost 50, counting children and grandchildren. We have all grown up together. Sociologists would call us a cohort. I would call us pioneers, with each family in its own wagon but on the same path.

On Wednesday night as the twilight deepened, we gathered in one of our little cottages, and discussed the events of the day, and how very special old friends are. We agreed that the shared experiences of childbirth, child rearing, jobs, retirement and the death of parents form a special bond.

As the sun set and the woods grew dark, we recalled the worst day all of us ever had on these vacations. Seventeen years ago, Don, one of the dads, came home from lunch to take a nap, had a heart attack and died in his room at the inn. His son was there and sought help, but it was too late. We rushed to the hospital hoping for a miracle that never came. Each of us and our children can remember where and when we got the shocking news.

The Deias said Don would have wanted all of us to stay on vacation. So we did. The moms rallied around Claudia and tried to find the impossible words of sorrow. Many, many tears were shed. Reality was confronted. It was a most surreal experience for all of us. 

During our discussion last Wednesday, Claudia told us how very important our friendship was, and how she could not have done it without us. Each of us recalled our own reactions and the hope that we could just do something to ease the pain of the family during that sad, sad week.

We then remembered Don and recalled some of the many kind, funny, crazy things this wonderful man had done or said. His enthusiasm for life remains an inspiration to me. Today I remember him more alive than dead. I think that is a good thing.

It was as if the stars were somehow aligned Wednesday night. It had been years since we had had a group discussion about those hurting times. So looking back now to the horror of 17 years ago with the passage of all that time was powerful, memorable and special.

It was a reminder that it is a great thing to have friends and family to celebrate your successes and accomplishments, but we all learn that life can be cruel and merciless, resulting in almost unbearable burdens. 

In such times one way — perhaps the only way — forward is with the love and support of those who have shared the path with you.