The harshest reality of a high school reunion is learning of the death of a fellow classmate. You’re young, or maybe you feel young, so it is hard to believe a classmate just as young is no longer with you. At your reunion, you want to remember these classmates, but want to do so in a respectful and appropriate way. Here are a few ideas:
1) Create a Memorial Table Photo Display On a linen covered table, set a framed photo of each classmate. In front of each picture, place a lit white votive or candle. You may also frame a list of names along with a single white candle. Adding an appropriate poem or quote is also a nice touch.
2) Include a Directory Page
Include a page for each deceased classmate in your directory or memory book, add their high school photo, and ask a fellow classmate to write a memory or thought. Or, have a single page listing the names of each classmate in the front of the book.
3) Remember Parents or Family Members
Let parents or families know you haven’t forgotten your classmates. The Kirkwood Class of 1991 set out cards for reunion attendees to write a note to the parents of their deceased classmates. Each card was filled with messages about how the classmate was missed. You may also want to send flowers to the parents or families, letting them know their loss is felt by everyone in the class.
You may be concerned this would be upsetting to family members. Parents and families deal with their loss every day. This isn’t a reminder. It is a way to let them know you also share in their grief. But, use your best judgment as to what you and the committee feel is most appropriate.
4) Make a Donation to Your School
Make a donation to your school or alumni association in memory of your classmates. Include the donation as part of the ticket price, or allow classmate to donate to the fund when they register for the reunion. The donation may be used as a scholarship or to buy something the school needs, such as equipment for the football team or books for the library. Click here for a story about the Lafayette Class of 2002 and the scholarships they created in memory of their classmates.
5) Create a Permanent Memorial
Collect donations to purchase a tree or bench. Have the dedication during the reunion weekend, and include pictures in your directory or on your memorial table. The tree or bench may be placed on the school grounds with a plaque or sign, such as “In Fond Memory of Our Classmates, the Benton Class of 1991”.
What Not to Do
- It is not necessary to include the when, why or how of a deceased classmate. This gossip isn’t anyone’s business, and you don’t want to offer information which may not be 100% correct.
- Don’t read names or have a moment of silence during the reunion program. Classmates are usually too busy talking and visiting and drinking to listen to what you have to say, making it hard to maintain a tone of respect. If you are able to hold the attention of your classmates during this time, transitioning back into the spirit of the reunion celebration can be difficult.
- Don’t leave empty chairs at a table in memory of each deceased classmate unable to attend.
Most of all, know it is not wrong to celebrate your reunion while at the same time remembering those classmates who are no longer with you.
Here are a few quotes you may want to include as part of your memorial:
No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.
So many things have happened
Since they were called away.
So many things to share with them
Had they been left to stay.
And now on this reunion day,
Memories do come our way.
Though absent, they are ever near,
Still missed, remembered, always dear.
Hold a true friend with both your hands.
We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.