This I have learned…


Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

“There are places I remember

All my life though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments

With lovers and friends, I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I’ve loved them all”

In My Life—The Beatles

When we move into a retirement community we come “armed” with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of memories and experiences. From grade/high school and college experiences, to our memory photos of where we once lived, as well as the recollections of friends that have come and gone, each of us carries a mental compendium of our life’s history.

Photos, of course, help to capture moments in time so that we can visually return to our past. Written words, such as diaries, also help us to reminisce in later years.

Recently, I was online with a high school friend who is still very well connected with our high school graduating class. She informed me of the names of several of our classmates who have passed away since our last reunion, which was two years ago.

Astounded, I can visualize the photos of these individuals pictured in our senior high school year book. How young and fresh they looked. Almost like yesterday I am seeing these students in the classes we shared: Anatomy and Physiology, English, Algebra, Spanish and American History, among other subjects. Some of the students played basketball or football, were on the debate team, in similar clubs as I was or were considered the brains of our class. It pains me to think that I will never see these individuals again.

As I wrote those words I also began to think of others in my life I probably will never see again. This calls to mind the people who I met along the way in my professional career: the people who hired, mentored and then wrote letters of recommendation for me, the people who befriended me on the first day of a job, those with whom I had lunch every day on subsequent jobs or those co-workers at whose weddings I attended. While I occasionally think of these individuals I have lost touch with most of them; I wonder how they are doing and where they are now.

And, in returning to see the homes in which I lived over my lifetime, I became acutely aware that nothing from the past remains the same—nothing can remain the same. The homes I saw were different, much smaller in size, not how I remembered them. I felt a profound detachment from them. Those homes now hold different dreams and memories for those currently living in them.

It is good to have memories, either good or bad, for they make up the kaleidoscope of a person’s life. I have loved all of the people in my life and the cherished memories from those relationships. This I have learned…