I remember turning ten years old and feeling so impressed that I was a decade old.
I remember being twentyish years old and my friend saying, “Can you believe we can talk about things that happened a decade ago?”
A decade ago, I mourned the lives of 32 beautiful, magnificent Hokies.
This year, the anniversary came on Easter Sunday, which was a welcome distraction of sorts. Instead of simply focusing on lives that were lost, there were a lot external reminders to focus on life. Mentally, I kept Easter separate from the anniversary even though they took place on the same day this year.
At the last minute, I headed home to spend the weekend with my grandmother. We looked at old photo albums together; she gave a vivid and sometimes blunt narration.
“All my friends and I did was take pictures of ourselves. I don’t know why, we didn’t have any money or any place to be.”
FYI, the selfie is not a new concept (perhaps the techniques have changed), specific to the millennials. In one dramatic photo shoot she and her friends made different themed portraits of each other – things got pretty emo!
“I wish I’d known/thought then I had such nice legs.”
My grandma and her friends were stylin’ and were their own harshest critics. That sounds pretty familiar.
I had to remind myself that these images were taken in the 1940s – wartime. Interspersed in these pages were photos of young men in uniform; some came back to the group and some did not. Or, those that did return were no longer themselves. My grandfather returned and quickly found a job in a new industry. My grandma was very clear that they were some of the lucky ones. She explained that pilots faced stiff competition entering the commercial market now that it was flooded with veterans. Looking back at those life and world-changing events, my grandma was reminded of how fortunate she had been.
That’s how I felt about the anniversary of Virginia Tech; I was one of the lucky ones and it was/is still pretty terrible. Like my grandma, I am able to look back on my college photos and find a similar gratitude. A stranger looking at those photos would see good friends hanging out and having fun. My photos from April 2007 and beyond, show us going through difficult things – vigils, remembrances, memorials. But in all of that, you see a community taking care of itself with kindness and love. The pain and sorrow of that time does not supersede the beauty of healing and reconciliation.
We talked about relationships; hers and mine. I asked her for advice and she said, “Everyone isn’t always up on their hind legs all the time.”
Mostly meaning, that sometimes life and relationships aren’t always that exciting or easy and that’s okay. We all go through different seasons and experiences and, to be honest, some are a lot more glamorous than others. When we can look back on our memories with empathy, it empowers us to see and appreciate the good from whatever our histories may be. When we look back, are we looking for heartache or happiness?
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7