Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Iam way too old and have seen far too much not to believe that everything in life happens for a reason. In recent weeks I've felt a warmth and strength from old high school friends as we joined our hearts and minds to rally around a classmate during her valiant struggle against cancer.

Relationships that were seeded in elementary and high school blossomed into genuinely touching e-mails and heartfelt phone conversations. Admit it or not, we all saw Chris's death (she passed away last Friday morning) as a mirror on our own mortality and it shook us and brought us to our senses.

Despite coming of age with a generation that considered itself invincible, we are finally coming around to accepting that we can't escape alive. We are all moving in the same direction, and the inevitable has brought out a new sensitivity toward each other. We are growing more comfortable with being honest and forthcoming about our feelings and our fears.

The friends from my youth-some Christian, some agnostic, some

Republican, some Democrat, some richer, some poorer-agree on many things

now: We should live in the present, we must support each other, we will

tell the people who matter most that we appreciate and love them while

we can.

It was precisely the same day that I remarked to Rick about feeling a

need to go south, that the invitation arrived. It's been way too long

since I've spent an afternoon sitting by her pool with Aunt Winnie, my

mom's only surviving sister. Unfortunately, our family history indicates

that the best-attended reunions on that side of the family are

funerals, including my mother's over 20 years ago.

I want to visit with my eight fabulous first cousins and their

always-expanding families now while they are well. I want to eat the

kind of food my father loved and drink homemade wine with the Grgas

clan. And back in Palos Verdes where I went to school, I can gather with

some of the girlfriends I've been in touch with recently and we can

talk through our loss and celebrate our reunion.

When Rick brought in the mail last Saturday, he dropped an envelope

in my lap. The invitation to my Aunt Winnie's 85th birthday party at my

favorite Croatian restaurant in San Pedro arrived just when I needed it


I am going home. I'll try to make each moment count and every hug

last a lifetime. I'm looking forward to getting back to my roots one

more time because I don't know when the next time might be.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at mthomas@

triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.