Our youngest daughter graduated from high school today, the high school that was our biggest county rival thirty-six years ago when I graduated. When we moved into this house in 1994, I wasn’t thinking then about what high school my as-yet-non-existent children would got to. I wasn’t thinking, Oh, now we’ll have to say Go Patriots, instead of Go Vikings! I didn’t think about green and gold instead of blue and white. I didn’t think.
But today I’m thinking. I’m thinking about how quickly time goes. I’m thinking about Philip, the classmate who drowned a few days before our June 10 graduation. I’m picturing that empty chair next to me that muggy June night, and how he will forever be eighteen, while those of us who have survived have turned mostly grey. I can still hear the chorus singing Paul Anka’s, “Times of Your Life,” which I thought so sadly, sappily sweet at the time, but which now makes me cry because there is so much truth in the lyrics, something we could not know that night:
The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you’ve seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life?
Most of us are parents, many are grandparents. Some of us attended each other’s weddings, comforted each other when divorce or death ended those plans, celebrated college graduations, new jobs, new homes, new families. We have observed moments of silence at reunions for those who passed between-times. We have prayed each other through cancer, car wrecks, heart attacks, loss of parents, and children, and kept up with each other through changes in jobs, homes, names, the changes time brings. But mostly the last thirty-six years are misty, filled with the laughter and tears, the good times and the bad that we experienced on our own personal journeys.
We graduated before Columbine, when kids and teachers kept their shotguns and rifles in their trucks or cars, even bringing them to school to show each other, prepared for the next hunting trip or target shooting session. We graduated before Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram, before the world-wide-web, before cell phones. Many of us who cared to have stayed in touch, through letters, emails, calls and texts, sharing highlights of the times of our lives, and remembering.
And it will be the same for my daughter. Most of her classmates will become parents and eventually grandparents. They will celebrate weddings, graduations, jobs, homes, families, friendships, and they will find comfort in lifelong friends when they need a shoulder or an ear, a sympathetic heart who can recall the laughter and the good times, when times are not so good. They will dance and grieve, pray and hope, weep and exult.
In a sadly similar situation, my daughter lost a classmate this week. His mother accepted his diploma today when his name was announced, and she will somehow live through his funeral service tomorrow at the same high school where he would have graduated today.
For whatever time these 2019 graduates have on this Earth, they will feel the same feelings humans have always felt. They will shed tears. They will laugh together. They will have moments of chaos, confusion, anger and frustration, and if they can just hang in there until the storms exhaust themselves, likely they will experience moments of absolute tranquility, of serenity, of their own peace and joy. They will share meals, lift glasses to cheer each other and the new friends life brings, and eventually they will observe moments of silence for those classmates whose journeys are concluded.
And they will remember…