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Grieving Graduation

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Photo by KW Photos

My son was supposed to graduate from high school today.

Micah's the baby, the one the doctors said I had practically no chance of raising to adulthood. Coronavirus canceled the ceremony, but it can't cancel my joy.

As I sit in my favorite chair early this morning, listening to the silence and talking with God while Micah sleeps, I can't help but reflect on how different this day could have been.

We won't experience the pomp and circumstance every graduation ceremony promises. We won't cheer through teary eyes as our youngest struts across the stage when they announce his name. We won't eat finger sandwiches and marble cake with our extended family afterward.

These are real losses that we will grieve. But they pale in comparison to the dreams I felt forced to bury years ago.

I was diagnosed when Micah was a baby, wiggly and wide-eyed, just starting to smile and coo. After the doctor delivered my death sentence, I had to accept that I would probably never know Micah, the young man. Micah, the baby and if I were lucky, Micah, the boy, would be the best I could hope for.

I soaked up every minute with him after my diagnosis - inhaling his after-bath baby scent, stroking his soft tiny forehead whenever he ate, singing lullabies to him before bedtime, running my fingers through those silky blonde curls while he drifted off to sleep, tears falling off my face onto his.

To cope with the mental anguish the prognosis evoked, I prayed. A lot. And I set goals – little goals and big goals. Looking forward, even just to the end of that day, somehow helped me focus on living instead of the fear of dying.

One of the first big goals I set for myself was to live long enough to take Micah to his first day of kindergarten in the little brick school two blocks from our house, the same school his sisters attended.

That goal kept me moving forward even in the darkest days.

Time did what time does, and that wiggly baby grew into a busy toddler, then a precocious preschooler, right before my eyes.

And I thanked God every day for the pure pleasure of being a mom – to him and his brother and sisters. It wasn't perfect. Life never is. I still occasionally hid from the kids' noise and chaos in the laundry room or cried tears of frustration over the piles of laundry and dishes.

And being sick often meant my body couldn't keep up with my heart. When exhaustion won, I watched my kids play from a lawn chair on the sidelines when I longed to be in the game. We had cereal for dinner far too often. But I was alive and with them, and somehow, that's all that mattered in those moments.

Alive. With them.

God gives us the gift of life for the express purpose of living. But He also allows us to choose how we use our lives. The one caveat is that life on earth is a one-shot deal.

No do-overs. No money-back guarantees. And no control over many of our circumstances. Just a choice to enjoy the people and the days God gives us.

Like your youngest child's graduation day, for instance. I dreamed of this day and begged God to let me live long enough to see it. Then due to conditions none of us could have foreseen, it turned out to be just another ordinary day.

No pomp and circumstance, no cap and gown, no seat in the arena, no marble cake. Just me in my favorite chair, reveling in the silence while that bouncing baby boy turned fine young man sleeps deeply down the hall.

Sounds perfect to me..

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