I had a George Bailey moment this past weekend.

That moment occurred during a reunion with a group of people whom I shared my life with during college and shortly thereafter. Some of these people I had not seen since my graduation some 30-ish years ago. It was an absolutely wonderful evening filled with talk about everything from college memories to families and current lives.

It didn’t quite hit me then, but on the way home I recalled that inscription on the copy of “The Adventures of Huck Finn” that Clarence gave George at the end of the film: “No man is a failure who has friends.”

This is a group that I started by adult life with. We had a great time back then. But then life gets in the way. We pursue our dreams and, in many cases, get consumed with trials and crises that make us forget just how much our lives touch others, and how much others touch ours. I hadn’t been the greatest of friends, losing track of and, in some cases, ignoring many friends in my quest to define myself and establish my professional career. Marriage and parenthood also get in the way. And although that becomes more of a change of priorities, it still pulls you farther away from the others who shared your past.

It was a bittersweet moment that brought us together. One of our group … Brent Cramer, a bright, funny and very talented photographer … had unexpectedly died right before Christmas. As the news got to me, I grew angry at myself for continually pushing aside the idea of getting together at least one more time. There always seems to be some time down the road for that … you don’t ever expect the road to end so shortly.

We toasted Brent, cursed him for leaving us so early, and thanked him for bringing the rest of us together one more time. It brought home the realization that true friendships are forged in iron and cannot be broken, no matter how long they are neglected.

The road of life has been a long one, and I cannot express just how much I enjoyed this rest stop with some very true friends. So to Kenny, Barb, Diana, Bruce, Mary Ann, Christ, Athena, Jay, Tony, Ray, Steve and Vicky: Thank you for letting be a Shriner one more time, even though I have not always been there for the rest of you. Your friendships are one I will always cherish.

Drink up!

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