We spent last weekend in southern Arkansas...El Dorado, to be exact...attending Brad's 25th high school reunion. Brad grew up there, and our family lived there for 4 1/2 years. El Dorado sometimes gets a bad rap, and it does have its share of problems (as does any city), but we enjoyed living there, and really have some great memories of our time there. The kids were the perfect ages at that time...between toddlerhood and tweenhood...and they have always considered El Dorado as the place "they grew up". (Even though they were only 12 and 9 when we left there!)
There are some really nice things about El Dorado (correctly pronounced "Elduhrayduh"...all one word!). My personal favorite is the Spudnuts! Ordinarily, I wouldn't give you a nickel for a plain glazed donut...add a little chocolate and a few sprinkles and we'll talk...but Spudnuts are like no other donut you've ever tasted. A hot Spudnut will absolutely melt in your mouth. So, of course, we had to get some while we were there. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that we got two dozen! Well, we had to have enough for Saturday morning and Sunday morning....El Dorado is known as "Arkansas' Original Boom Town" because of its history of oil production. The town square is decorated with barrels, painted and shaped in all kinds of fun designs.
They even have working telephone booths! Here's Bethany pretending she's starring in the Matrix...
But, back to the reunions. We attended El Dorado Class of 1985 events on Friday night and a good part of the day and evening on Saturday. I was relegated to this status...
...which I didn't mind a bit! I know a lot of Brad's classmates since we lived there for so long, and it was nice getting caught up with them. Some of them I hadn't met, though, and it was interesting (and humbling) to see their faces light up with recognition as they said, "You're Hannah's Mom!" I was amazed at how many people had been praying for us...even from as far away as South Africa! The family of God is everywhere!
We had another reunion, of sorts, while we were in El Dorado. We had the opportunity to share our testimony at St. Paul United Methodist, the church Brad attended from birth until he went to college. Again, it was great to see some folks we had not seen for many years and it was humbling to talk to all the people who had prayed for us during our cancer journey. Several of Brad's former classmates attended the service as well, which made it even more special.
After church, we had another reunion...this time with three of Hannah's former classmates. These three girls were Hannah's best friends when we lived in El Dorado, and their friendship truly stood the test of time. These girls came to visit her when she was sick, and even came to see her at the hospice center, when she was barely even able to communicate with them anymore. I thought that was extremely brave of them...I don't think I could have done it. These three girls graduated from high school this year, and are all going off to different colleges, one in Arkansas, one in Tennessee, and one in Texas. I couldn't help but wonder if it would be the last time we would be with all three of these girls together. And I couldn't help but think about how much Hannah would have enjoyed visiting with them.
Our final "reunion" of the weekend was with our old house. As we always do when we're in El Dorado, we drove past all of our old stomping grounds and took some pictures. We took a couple pictures of our old house, drove around the block, and as we drove back past the house, we were waved down by the current homeowner. We obediently pulled over and opened the car window. The gentleman was actually quite angry and wanted to know why we were taking pictures of his house. We explained to him who we were, and were relieved when recognition dawned on his face. He then asked us if we wanted to come in and see the inside of the house. My initial reaction was to shake my head (I'm an avoider, remember?), but Brad and Bethany enthusiastically said, "Yes!" So we all piled out of the car and went into the house. And it was like stepping into a time warp...other than the furniture, nothing had changed. Paint colors, wallpaper, borders, the backyard...it was all the same. I even noticed a couple of thumbtacks I had used to hang up some of the girls' school papers in the sunroom...still there. It was like we had never left. As Bethany explained to the homeowners how she and Hannah used to talk to each other through the vents in their floors when we sent them to their rooms for misbehavior, I floated through the memories that still clung to everything in that house. By the time we left, I was having a hard time holding it together, and all three of us lost it when we got into the car.
Our comfort is found, though, in John 14: 2-3: "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." As much as we miss living in our earthly house with Hannah, we will be able to spend eternity in the Father's house with her! And it's going to be so much better than we can even imagine! Now that is a reunion I am looking forward to!