Graduation last year was a near-total disappointment and a painful experience for many families. We like to make each milestone a little significant. That way, we can all come together as families, friends, and loved ones for fellowship and renewal, if you will. These events become part of a family’s ongoing narrative. For obvious reasons, last year did not offer us the opportunity to mark this significant milestone in the life of our children, especially high school students. Many families found different ways to at least celebrate their children, people who are turning into adults heading off to college or towards another new life chapter. A lot of high schools held graduations on Zoom in order to celebrate their students. Every attempt was worth it because each reflected a much deeper story demonstrating the extent to which we all go to make things worthwhile for the children we love.
This year has been markedly different. I haven’t, as yet, heard about any school which is holding exclusively virtual graduations - and this is a good thing. This year is a special year for me; in as much as I celebrate Zachary Johnson for graduating college, and Steve Spooner and Aislinn Coghlan for graduating high school, I also celebrate my daughter Havilynd who graduates from high school on Sunday and heads off to college in the fall.
I am sure many of you remember stories of driving her to Pikesville very early each morning and picking her up late in the evenings because I didn’t want to deal with the nauseating traffic on interstate 695. That was a huge sacrifice. But I am keenly aware that Beth and Bill, Susan, Mary Anne and Peter, and many more parents have made, and continue to make, enormous sacrifices in raising and supporting your children. The question is, why? Why do you and I and many others make these sacrifices for our children? In a very pure way, it is a reflection of the duty of love we owe them. And for that reason, we go to whatever length possible to make sure that they are satisfied, that their needs are met. We commit to this task with the hope that when we are too old to take care of ourselves, that same duty of love would be extended to us.
This reminds me of a story...
Once, an old man was sitting on a bench in a garden with his 25-year-old son. There was a tree beside the bench on which they sat. The old man saw a bird sitting on the tree.
He asked the son- what’s that bird sitting on the tree?
The son replied- it’s a crow.
After a brief moment of silence, the old man asked again: what’s that bird sitting on the tree?
The son responded- I already told you that it’s a crow.
It didn’t take long for the old man to ask again, what’s that bird sitting on the tree?
The son angrily said - are you deaf or mad, papa? How many times do I have to tell you it’s a crow? Can’t you understand?
The old man patiently replied- my dear son, when you were 5yrs old, you asked me the same question 174 times, what’s this or what’s that, and each time you ask the same question, I replied with a kiss. Now, I asked you the same question three times and you are irritated.
To an extent, the cycle never ends, it only reminds us of what is in store for us - especially in our old age. Jesus provides an admonition in John’s gospel: “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
The real challenge is that I do not know who will dress me and lead me where I do not want to go. But I want to believe that whoever is dressing me or even leading me to where I do not want to go loves me with unconditional love and, for the most part, they are usually the children we raise and celebrate at each milestone, be it graduation or Confirmation - which, by the way, will take place this Sunday at Christ Church.