My oldest daughter graduated from high school this week. With graduation comes a flurry of activity: family coming into town, graduation parties for friends who are also graduating, and, since my daughter works at Graeter’s, we just had to take her grandparents there. And, of course, there was the graduation ceremony itself.
And the moment that hit me the most at Sophie’s graduation wasn’t: when they walked in to “Pomp and Circumstance,” or when the ceremony concluded with the tossing of the mortar boards into the air. (Is it now required that every graduation ceremony must end with the graduates throwing those strange, pointy hats into the sky?) What hit home most for me was when they said my daughter’s full name. The name we gave her at birth. It was a reminder that the baby I first held in my arms early on that November morning in 1995 has grown up into a beautiful young woman. Where did time go? And am I really 18 years older than the guy who stood starry-eyed in that hospital room in Cincinnati?
Time does march on. Perhaps that is why they call graduation ceremonies a commencement. It is a commencing, a beginning. Graduation is the end of something, certainly; but, even more, it is the start of the next phase of life, of the next chapter of a journey that will hopefully take my daughter through many wonderful experiences and learning opportunities.
High school is over, but college awaits. And even when college is over, I hope Sophie continues to learn and grow — that her life will be full of many commencements, many new beginnings of learning and growth.
At Sophie’s graduation party, her preschool teacher brought her a unique gift. It was her assessment of Sophie when she was in Ms. Linda’s preschool class. She wrote some kind words about Sophie, including these: Sophie is kind, considerate, and loving to everyone.
I mention this not to brag — okay, maybe just a little. But I bring up Sophie’s preschool evaluation because no matter how much we learn, or how much education we get — and no matter how old we get — the basics don’t change. There is a lot to learn in life, but no matter where my daughter goes in life — no matter where any of us goes — what we need most is to remember what we learned when we were 4 or 5.
Because, really, what is life but the continual opportunity to learn how to grow in love — love for God, and love for others. In fact, learning how to love is something we never graduate from, and is something we should commence doing every day.
So, Sophie: keep growing and learning. Don’t stop. But in the midst of all that you learn and all that you become, remember these simple words — striving to put them into practice everyday: Love God. Love others.
Because if you do, you can’t fail in the school that matters the most — the School of Life.