Graduations are emotional experiences. They are particularly moving when it is your youngest child….Last week I watched my third son receive his high school diploma. Both the valedictorian and salutatorian are friends of his, so I listened intently. He has been friends with one of them since third grade. As I listened to their well-prepared speeches that reflected on aspirations for the future, I thought about another event I would attend the next day.
The day after graduation I was scheduled to attend a memorial service for a high school classmate that sat a few chairs away from me on a stormy night in May of 1980 as we received our high school diplomas from Monterey High School. I immediately thought: “if they only knew…” If the kids walking across that commencement stage only knew that life can be unpredictable and short… I wanted to jump up and scream: “Tell your friends NOW how much they mean to you!” I chose to refrain. I really did not want to be arrested for disorderly conduct at my son’s graduation.
Mitchell and his circle of friends will likely go their separate ways. Already plans are in place for them to attend a host of different universities. Some will marry. Others will remain single. A handful will stay in Granbury and others will choose to live overseas. Many of them will have children in the not so distant future. As the ceremony ended and final pictures were being taken with grandparents, I felt overwhelmingly sad. I would leave early the next day to mourn the loss of a classmate and these graduates are about to disburse. I didn’t like that image in the least. Something felt wrong.
As we waited outside the Ft. Worth Convention Center for our graduates, the grandmother of one of Mitchell’s closest friends shared some put things in perspective for me. She said that she graduated from high school, married, and had children. She had little contact with classmates during the years of raising kids. And then her children grew up and left home. A new chapter in life opened. She reunited with her childhood friends. They now gather on a regular basis.
I realized as she spoke that I am in that chapter in life at this very moment. How fortunate I have been to reunite with classmates over the past 5 or 6 years. And I also realize now that we are at a stage in life when we need each other. Several of my friends are caring for aging parents. Others are grieving over the recent loss of their parents. And yes…we have lost some of our own. We need each other.
I will allow my son and his friends to relish this moment of celebration. Someday they too will be in the chapter I am presently experiencing. There is a time for everything. And for Mitchell’s class, perhaps it is a time for them to separate and explore the world. But I hope they too will either stay in touch or one day reunite. They will need each other someday in ways they cannot possibly comprehend or articulate in commencement speeches. So perhaps I should say to them: “Tell your friends NOW how much they mean to you!”
I feel at peace now thanks to the wisdom from someone a generation ahead of me. I am ready to fully engage this chapter in life. I plan to be love deeper and forgive quicker. And I plan to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It is an important chapter in life.
Graduations really are emotional experiences…