Today was a big day for our family. My husband's only cousin, Scott, graduated from high school.
Although Scott is our cousin, he is relationally more like a brother. He was orphaned unexpectedly 4 years ago and has been raised my my husband's parents since then. The only child of my father-in-law's only sister, he lost his mother to an aneurysm at age four. His father died after a very sudden illness when he was in the 8th grade. It was after their passing that he learned he had been adopted at birth. He has experienced more in his 19 years than many twice his age.
Despite his challenging life so far, he has done quite well: involved in his youth group, traveling multiple times to Romania to minister to orphans, Varsity football player, joyful, passionate young man. He achieved a milestone today in graduating from high school. Next month he will head to Oxford, MS to begin Summer classes at Ole Miss.
I had intended to post tonight about the advice I wish I had been given on my graduation day June 1, 1992. However, there was such excellent wisdom in the speeches at his Commencement ceremony I wound up taking notes. (Can we pause for a second and talk about what a geek I am. Who takes notes at a high school graduation?)
The first nugget was from his principal. Her charge to the graduating seniors was profound: Your biggest fear should not be failure, but instead that you may succeed in something that doesn't matter. I love it! To quote John Piper, "Don't waste your life."
The second was actually from the valedictorian's speech. It was so incredible to hear this 18 year old young man exhort his classmates to "be authentic and seek truth." He challenged the group to live a life that would allow them at 76 to sit in their rocker and claim as their prized possession their integrity. How wise and refreshing!
The commencement address was delivered by a surgeon and former professor of my husband's from Emory. He left the graduates with three verses from Scripture to commit to memory. I would love to recount them for you here, but I had restless children at this point and was unable to pay as much attention :-) I did manage to scratch down one of his challenges: As you live life don't just avoid the bad, but instead choose the best.
After the ceremony, my in laws hosted a terrific luncheon in Scott's honor. As we waited for dessert to be served each person offered Scott congratulations and advice. My five favorites were:
1-Remember you are not immortal.
2-Go to church your first Sunday in Oxford, then keep going each week after that.
3- Don't forget who you are and Whose you are.
4-Choose your friends wisely from the get-go as they will largely determine the path you take.
5-Don't put hot sauce on your roommate's deoderant. (I am sure there was a story...)
I was emotional all morning. As I watched the tearful parents, I couldn't help but shed a few of my own. What on Earth will it be like to watch my entire brood move on at once? I had pointed out a particularly weepy woman to my husband before the ceremony started. I asked him what he thought our trio's graduation would be like for us and his quick reply made me laugh. "We'll make her look like a lightweight."
I didn't stay weepy for long. We were, afterall, there to celebrate Scott...and my currently antsy little ones required my almost-full attention. I pushed through until the slideshow. As the faces of the graduates flashed on the screen in baby pictures followed by senior portraits a song I was not familiar with was playing:
Please, let them be little, 'Cause they're only that way for a while. Give them hope, give them praise, Give them love every day. Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle, Let 'em sleep in the middle, Oh, but let them be little. The so innocent, precious soul: You turn around, an' it's time to let them go. -Billy Dean
And once again I was a bit undone... Thankfully, this song stuck with me the rest of the afternoon. I needed the reminder as my children terrorized the luncheon guests with balloons and bubbles. :-)And while we are enjoying letting them be little, check out this video I took over breakfast this morning. Their post-graduate plans were cracking me up, so I tried to capture the conversation for posterity. Forgive the poor quality. I didn't want to miss the moment!