Last August, on a rainy Saturday, during the BHS Reunion in Toronto, several of my former classmates met for lunch at a diner. There we were, Yvonne Atherly, Dawn Campbell, Denise Leander, Anne Ramkissoon, Gaynor Robertson, Penelope Yearwood and me. Some of us had not spoken to or seen someone at that table in 30 years, but we barely skipped a beat as we ate, laughed, looked at old photographs, reminisced and caught up on each other’s lives and asked of other schoolmates. We had fought to carve a few hours out of our packed day to have that time together. I remember Dawn was moving house that day, but she came anyway. We lingered in a car park afterwards, exchanging contact details in the drizzle, before scattering to our four corners of the earth, warmed by the memories of a childhood spent at Bishops’ High School, in good old GT.
Two weeks ago, I came across a photograph of that day and chuckled at the way we still seemed to be, at our core, the same little girls who shared a classroom and teenage ‘dramadom’ in the mid-70s.
Last week, we received the shocking news that Dawn had passed away, and I thanked God for those few precious hours of pure joy spent with my friends last summer.
To those of you sitting in a classroom at the BHS and other high schools in Guyana, create your friendships now. You will have the usual teenage squabbles; classmates will ‘fret’ you, your best friend will ‘steal’ your boyfriend, and someone will not invite you to their sweet sixteen birthday party. What I know for sure is that those hurts will fade in intensity and importance, but the shared memories of the good times will endure. These are the people with whom you spend most of your waking moments in your formative years, and they will be your points of reference, more often than you can imagine, during your lifetime. As Boys II Men sang back in the 1990s “…The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad.’
How do we say goodbye to yesterday? Last August, my beloved Aunt Gwen hosted a tea party for some “Bishops’ old girls” to celebrate the good fortune of being alive and the sheer joy of having had a shared childhood.
A few days after the reunion, one of them passed away. Some of us will not be so fortunate to get to four score and ten plus, so please enjoy your family and friends now − call, write, drop by. Moving house is deemed one of the most stressful activities in a person’s life, yet Dawn, carved out a few hours of time on her moving day last summer, to share a meal and laughter with six former classmates.
To Dawn’s children, siblings and other loved ones, I extend my condolences. May Hashim, He who is called God, comfort you in your time of need. Dawn, “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Cheryl E. Noel