IT MAY SOUND TIRED OR TRITE, but it is true nonetheless: when our children are young, we don’t fully grasp what it will be like when they finally walk across the stage and graduate from high school. Graduation Day is the event that compares most closely to a rite of passage — and while it pales in comparison to the indigenous experience, it’s truly all we have.
My eldest son sat with me last evening as he prepared for the big day, and we reminisced together: I, about goofy events from his childhood and he, oddly, about a story I’d shared from my own high school graduation many moons ago.
This art of “just being,” together in the same space is something we’ve done often. It’s been fifteen years since my divorce, but thankfully, we’ve spent many thousands of hours together relishing one another’s company.
As I’ve made my way through life as a single Dad, I’ve attempted to cherish each moment, amid crises and joy. Often I’ve struggled and failed, but try I do.
SEVEN YEARS AGO, the boy in the photo loved baseball more than anything. It was his life, it seemed. Today, it’s music and politics, computers and friends.
Next year — who knows? But one thing is for certain: I will never take any of it for granted.
Yesterday, I spoke with Mathy Milling Downing, who appeared in GENERATION RX. Her daughter Candace would have been graduating this week also — and it would have been her 18th birthday, had it not been for the tragic circumstances surrounding her death. Dosed with Zoloft, as the film tells, this beautiful child of 11 years old hanged herself in the Downing’s garage — a mere hour after sitting on her father’s lap watching Animal Planet on TV.
Mathy and Andy Downing — and their daughter Caroline are heroes of mine. They have fought through the pain and endured to become powerful advocates for “informed choice.” They have armed millions of others with the essential information they need about SSRIs like Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. Caroline wants to become a journalist and filmmaker…and she is already in college pursuing those goals. Her parents are justifiably proud.
I told Mathy that as my son's graduation takes place this afternoon, I will be prayerful and full of gratitude. As she obviously knows better than I, we can never take these milestones lightly.
I love and adore my son — and I will surely be ‘misty’ today. I taught him to tie his shoes — and to tie a tie. I helped him to bat — and to combat narrow thinking.
This is his day.
But I will also be cognizant of my friend Mathy’s void — and recognize that she was unable to see both of her daughters walk across the stage.
As obvious as it seems, maybe we need to strip things down to the bare essentials — and give thanks for the basics on this day. After all, our blessed time with them as they’ve grown, the love we’ve shared, our rembrances of happy times in their childhood — are these not the building blocks of life?
Since life holds no guarantees for any of us — no matter how preciously we view it — shouldn’t we strip things down to the core?
Candace Downing lives on. Her life’s story — and her tragic death affect even the most hardened among us. In Generation RX, the story surrounding her suicide is simply stunning — and I’ve witnessed masses weep at the injustice of it all.
In the strangest of twists, Candace has already graduated — and is already teaching all of us.
Perhaps you too, have a son or daughter who will graduate this weekend — and pass the first major test of life.
As my son walks across the stage today, though, I’m sure I will shed a tear — out of my love and pride for him — and for Candace Downing — and others like her.
Peace to you this day.