Last weekend, I attended my 15-year high school reunion.
About a year's worth of planning, fundraising and hard work went into the event, which brought together about 40 members of the Brooke High Class of 1997, several significant others and two or three party crashers from the wedding reception next door.
The night before featured a mixer. That brought together close to 10 others who would be unable to attend the main event but still wanted to catch up.
While I think we all had hoped more could have been there, those of us who were seemed to enjoy our time together.
There were a few bumps in the road, as with planning any kind of event, but at the end of the night, the whole point was having the chance to catch up with people we hadn't seen for a while, look back on old memories and possibly make a few new ones.
It was nice to get together, to see how each of us has changed and to move beyond any issues we may have had back then.
I got the chance to talk to several people I hadn't even seen since high school, and others I don't think I had ever spoken with in our lives.
We all have different lives now, even from our last reunion five years ago. Many have children, some have been married for years while others have been divorced.
But, all in all, it was a memorable experience we can look back on fondly for at least another five (or maybe 10) years.
For me, one of the moments I?hope will stick with everyone there took place early in the evening. Prior to having our group photo taken, the committee wanted to have a way to pay tribute to those in our class who were no longer with us.
We may only be in our early 30s, but there already are nine of our former classmates who are gone. They left us in various ways, but the point is we will never see them again.
They deserved to be included in some way, and so, we had a small balloon launch, releasing green and gold star-shaped balloons into the air, each with a tag bearing the name of one of our departed classmates.
We all have a finite amount of time on this earth, and, as the years move forward there will be even more of us joining those named on those balloons.
For me, that's why it's so important to have events like that to get together, even if it's only every five or 10 years.
It shouldn't be about old grudges, seeing who still looks good after all that time, or how much the tickets will cost to attend.
At the end of the evening, it's about making these connections as we are now, catching up with people and spending time together.
After all, we never know when our last time seeing each other will be.
It's the same way with any kind of celebration.
The Weirton Steel 25-Year Club picnic is fast approaching, for example, and it will bring together former steel workers from all over the country.
There are people who come back to Weirton only for this event, and it is focused almost entirely on people reconnecting.
The various fairs and festivals of our area often bring together people who haven't seen each other in months or even years.
Maybe there's a favorite vacation spot with people who only know each other from their visits there.
Despite all the ways we have to stay in touch these days, there still is quite a bit we miss in each other's lives. No matter how connected we are through social media, it can never take the place of getting to talk face-to-face and seeing each other in person.
For my generation, and those of others younger than myself, it often is the case where we don't stick around where we were raised. There are still many members of my high school class living in or around the Ohio Valley, but not nearly what there used to be. We have found ourselves moving all over the country, or even to other nations and don't always have the chance to get together as we would like.
But, when we do have a chance, I hope everyone sees just how important it is.
Take every opportunity you have to see old friends or family members. Take the time to share a little bit of what you have learned or to talk about your experiences. Leave the past in the past and look toward the future.
You never know when your next chance will come around.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)