Chasin’ That High School Flame

Last week I was able to take a quick R&R vacay with my cousin and aunt at Hilton Head Island. Gosh, is the beach good for the soul, or what?

To begin my departure from the island and the heaping baskets of hush puppies, I had to take a shuttle from our hotel to the airport. On my ride, I spent forty-five minutes totally engrossed in conversation with two other travelers. We had no phone interruptions and seemed to share mutual interest in each other — or at least a desire to quickly pass the time — and told stories like we were sitting around a campfire.

One trim, bandana-wearing traveler, Jim, said he was visiting Hilton Head because of a gift from his daughter. She had bought him a one-week stay at a fitness retreat, or so he had thought when he arrived two weeks ago. Turns out it was a two week stay… at what Jim described as “straight up Fat Camp.” Jim is seventy-five and if he had said he was related to Willie Nelson, I would have believed him with his long gray hair and black, sleeveless t-shirt. But “a vacation is a vacation,” he said. He told me he stayed two weeks, withstood “young bucks like you” telling him to do FIVE MORE REPS, and now had to use a safety pin to hold his pants up.

The other woman and I shared that were both visiting family and looking for a little rest from life. We wanted to disconnect from our computers, lose track of time on the beach, and spend time connecting with the people we were with.

Jim nodded and closed his eyes. “Speaking of reconnecting with people…”

He told us about attending his 50th high school graduation a few years ago. “What a doozie that is.” He joked about how I hadn’t even been to a 10 year high school reunion while he’s been to 50 years worth.

Jim sat up a bit as he readjusted the safety pin on his pants. “Let me tell you, there’s something about a high school flame that just doesn’t burn out. Mine was Lynn Moon.”

Jim described himself as a hippie so falling for a woman named Lynn Moon suited him perfectly. He said her name a few times. “What a gal.” Jim said he’d always had a crush on Lynn Moon but never did anything about it. He had lost touch with Lynn over the years but saw her with her “oxygen-tank-towing lug of a husband” at the reunion. He said he felt like he was eighteen again when saw her and winked at me, pretending to elbow me from across the aisle.

The other woman and I just chuckled.

He said they only talked briefly at the reunion but exchanged contact information and promised to grab dinner soon. The next day Lynn reached out and asked Jim to join her and her husband for dinner at their home.

A Hallmark moving in the making, I thought.

A few weeks later, Jim drove to Lynn’s and said on the way over he imagined this was finally his big night with Lynn Moon. He said he figured “old Oxygen Tank” would keel over any day and he and Lynn Moon could finally live happily ever after.

I was enthralled.

They had dinner, pulled out old photo albums and laughed and laughed until the early morning hours. Jim was proud of that. He said at seventy-five staying up past midnight is YYYUGE. They promised to get dinner again real soon and said good-bye.

A few weeks later, Jim gets a call from Oxygen Tank.

Lynn Moon had died the night before.

“Lynn Moon dies in this story??” I exclaimed. “Noo. I’m so sorry,” I say.

Jim said you never expect people to be gone before you can tell them how you feel about them. He said the story he’d pictured for him and Lynn had a totally different ending than he’d ever predicted. He said he never considered outliving Lynn Moon.

We all sit in silence for a moment before conversation eventually picked back up. By the time we are at the Savannah airport, we all hug and head to our separate flights. But the rest of the day, I kept thinking of Lynn Moon and Jim.


Do you have a Lynn Moon? Maybe it’s less a person and more a conversation or destination. Maybe your Lynn Moon is a place you need to go or a fear you need to overcome. What truth do you need to be honest about? What fear is actually less scary than the fear of not broaching it at all? What beauty would we miss out on by letting fear beat us down?

There is something in the prospect of death that makes me feel simultaneously invincible and fragile. In the moments I feel boldly confident and untouchable, it’s only because grief and death are familiar to me. I contemplate the reality of heaven and amount of grief on earth in the same way we might routinely gloss over the cereal box at breakfast. Not all the time but in some moments, I feel I know grief and death like an acquaintance I once feared but now know better. They battle hard and strong but they will not win in the end.

Definitely not.

At the same time, I feel so fragile. Death is but a heartbeat away. Life comes and so painfully goes. The timing is never good and we’re never really prepared. Death always leaves a wake of hurt and loss.

I’ve lived and walked through my greatest nightmare and so have many of you at various points of your life. Maybe not to a degree of a nightmare but in so many unfathomable ways, life hardly turns out how you predict. We are all acquainted with letdown and a degree of despair. We are human. Pain comes with the territory. But we are still here.

I’ve found that there is surely strength in numbers. I’m terrified of riding roller-coasters. Terrified. It’s almost comical how fearful I am. But the prospect of eventually riding one, facing just one of my Lynn Moon’s, feels much less scary if I know I am on the roller-coaster with friends, people I can admit “I’m twenty-six and I’m scared. For real. I need to hold someone’s hand if I do this.” The best part is not everyone’s Lynn Moon is a roller-coaster. If your Lynn Moon is overcoming disgust for almond butter, I’m the girl for your team.

Really. I. got. you.

When we face our fears together, heart-break, grief and sadness don’t stand a frikin’ chance. Not a one.

I need you all. And I think we all need each other.

Whistling: This song. Favorite lyric: “I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from” — Fear by Ben Rector



5 Replies to “Chasin’ That High School Flame”

  1. Em, its not a roller coaster that you fear, but the water ride at Sea World (Journey to Atlantis). This was a great story, and after 45 minutes with Jim you are hugging it out. That is living life.



  2. Everytime I eat almond butter I get so angry that it isn’t peanut butter…but my roomies and I share groceries and that’s what they like! (I guess I’m brave for facing my fear with every ab&j [ugh not even a good acronym!] that I eat.)


  3. Hi Emily, Carol and I have so enjoyed your posts. We just recently signed up for them. You have a unique gift for writing and sharing a message that so many of us overlook, even though it may be right in front of us. We admire your strength and courage. And we feel blessed to know you and your family. It was great seeing your Dad last weekend as several of us shared a “Wine and Worship” Saturday night with him. We’ll look forward to your next posting. Love and Blessings to you, Al & Carol Baldy


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