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“If only” runs through my mind as I remember our 50th reunion of a week ago.

Twenty-nine of forty classmates (three have died) met at Camp Geneva in Holland, Michigan, from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning. Many of us, as proud members of the Blodgett Memorial Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1962, had not seen each other since our graduation ceremony at Fountain Street Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A Walk along Lake Michigan

A year ago, we gradually formed a committee of nine to plan a reunion with not much more in mind than to provide an opportunity for classmates to renew acquaintance and celebrate having been nurses for half a century with our theme of 50 Years of Saving Lives.

But much more happened as we found out during our wrap-up session the final morning. And this is where an “if only” comes in. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to whip out a pen and jot down some comments. Here are a few to the best of my recall:

“I feel now, if I’m vacationing where any of you lives, I’d be comfortable calling you up and dropping in.”

“I didn’t know what to expect, not having seen most of you since we graduated, but I’m so happy I got to know every one of you better than we ever knew each other in nurses’ training.”

“These few days have been more like a spiritual retreat than a reunion.”

These three responses were echoed by others. And, again, if only I’d had my pen and paper out even earlier during the sharing times of each classmate where we heard their individual accounts of how  “my nursing education influenced my life, ” I’d have substantive material for dozens of blog posts.

A highlight of our time together was honoring our class scribe, Eileen Torrey. For these fifty years, we have mailed and, more recently, emailed her a letter every February that she has collated and mailed/emailed to each of us.  Her keeping us in touch undoubtedly was instrumental in us being able to dig right in and get reacquainted. As a surprise, we gave her a gift for her faithfulness, shocking her as she opened a check for over $1000.00.  I know we all felt we couldn’t put a price on what it has meant to get that letter every year.

Eileen thinks her gift is a class photo, but then presenter Joyce Webb hands her a box camouflaging the check inside.

What strikes me in retrospect is not only the bond we share as nurses and as seventy-plus-year-old women, but as Christians. As teenagers in nurses’ training, our faith wasn’t primary in our minds. Survival was…through thirty-six straight months intense with classes, clinicals, and working all shifts.

Now we were able to see how each person’s faith had guided their personal as well as their professional lives. We were able to see how important our stories were to each other as we listened to over six hours of individual story-telling and mingled with different people at each of the five meals.

We had a bunch of fun too with memorabilia:

Classmates Shar Van Putten, me, and Sandy Veltkamp pose with our student uniform, a starched apron over a blue-striped dress.

Our parting was emotional as we sang farewell songs, including:

God be with you till we meet again;

By His counsels guide, uphold you,

With his sheep securely fold you;

God be with you till me meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,

Till we meet at Jesus’ feet,

Till we meet, Till we meet,

God be with you till we meet again.

As I moderated this final session, singing Till we meet at Jesus feet drew my tears. This group of women had sustained me the week between the death of my nurse-mentor sister and her memorial service. I could not have been in a better place than with this sisterhood of faith-filled women.

And, yes, even though not planned as such, this reunion turned out to be much more than that…an inspirational spiritual retreat. And I think it did so because that’s just who we are.