A chance encounter at Mass yesterday brought me diving to my knees in the pews, confessing my anxiety and fears that within minutes, I’ll come face to face with a friend from the past.
The chance encounter is with a mutual acquaintance who informed that my “friend from the past” would be arriving shortly and to be seated at the same pew.
I haven’t met this “friend from the past” for 10 years. I barely remember why we fell out in the first place. Actually, I’m not even sure if she and I had fallen out to begin with.
Back in those days, when we were young(er) and (more) carefree, her place was our refuge on lazy afternoons. There were actually three of us and it was our almost-daily routine to gather there, drink wine, exchange our stories and fantasise about possibilities.
Best of all, we served together at Church and that was where we toiled hard through our labour and every single heartbeat. Our common faith lent a dimension to our friendship — it purified our relationship, made us sincere encouragers of one another, and set us on fire towards tomorrows.
It was like we were giddy girls who finally found missing pieces of ourselves in one another. There was so much to learn of each other, and so much to offer of ourselves.
And just as quickly as we fell in love with our little trio, we broke up. Just like that.
Best friends turned bitches, we kept our distance away from one another. Two of us remained friends, the “friend from the past” did not. There was anger, bitterness and a good measure of confusion over who said what and what it meant.
10 years later, and there I was at the pews, soon to encounter her again. I said my prayer as good Catholics do (we who face the topic of “forgiveness” on an almost daily basis and struggle with it every moment of most days).
And then, there she was. My “friend from the past”. Her husband punched me lightly on my arm to say a warm hello. And then introduced himself to my husband — “we’re old friends”, he said. I returned my hellos to him and to her.
And I genuinely felt happy to say hello again. Not just relieved it wasn’t awkward. Or grateful that I behaved politely and gracefully enough. No, not that. I was happy to say hello again.
I was happy to see them again and happy for this realisation to dawn. We celebrated Mass together and when we said Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us”, I wondered very briefly if my “friend from the past” was thinking about us in this prayer — for I was, praying very sincerely to be forgiven because I know that I have forgiven.
I wished them peace and received their blessings in turn, with genuine smiles not held back.
It almost seems like nothing has changed in 10 years. But of course, lots have. She and her husband have moved overseas and come back only for visits. Their golden retriever whom we all loved had passed away last year at 14 years of age. I’m happily married now when back then, I was the only unmarried one still struggling in my relationships. And I’m a mother now when that possibility had never crossed my mind before.
A lot has changed. Whatever betrayals had occurred don’t get erased just because they’re forgotten. The pain of loss and the lack of reconciliation when it was needed still cast a shadow over today’s best situation. Hearts can be mended but cracks cannot.
Still. For that one hour, all of that kept their distance, just like our fragile egos that had come between us and our headstrong pride that had reared its heads in our friendship, did.
And there we were, just… two people again. People who have shared connections standing before the reign of God. It seems fitting for this to happen back at our Church of the Holy Spirit, on the one Sunday she happened to be there and we, who have moved to a different parish, also returned there.
Maybe we will never be friends again. And maybe that’s okay too.
Maybe … there’s no such thing as a chance encounter anyway.
Because for now, I like to think by God’s grace, we’ve experienced forgiveness and reconciliation yesterday. With all my heart, I bare no anger and bitterness toward my “friend from the past” and I truly, sincerely wish her all the best, as we all must with our own “friend from the past”, the ones whom we’ve once given a part of ourselves to, and who still holds those parts in their possession, like how we still carry theirs with us.