May and June feature more than a few reasons to celebrate. Mother’s day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day (in the U.S.), May Day, Flag Day, and more give us those opportunities. These months are also popular choices for weddings as spring and early summer awaken us from winter’s cold embrace.
Even though graduations can occur at other times during the year, they are most numerous in May and June. Depending on your season of life, you will have some years where they fill up your calendar and other years when you barely notice they are happening.
This was a year of graduations for us. Our oldest grandson graduated from college and one of his sisters graduated from high school. Their accomplishments were lauded and applauded as they completed requirements to attain their diplomas. They were each celebrated with gifts, food, fellowship, and fun.
In the midst of such celebration, it is noteworthy that these mark transitions for each of them as well as their families. They bring an end to one period, but a beginning of another.
Our grandson has been in college five hours from home, but will leave for a medical school in late July that will be more than 900 miles from home. The moorings of his close relationships will shift. He will not only be farther from home − a big deal for him, but bigger for his parents and the rest of the family − but also his closest companions from college will be scattered to various places as well.
Our granddaughter has lived at home and will discover what life in college is like − more than 500 miles from home − as she leaves the cushion of parents and siblings to offer her reminders, hugs, and the occasional kick in the tush to support her each day.
Graduations are jumping off points where we start something new with the rewards or consequences of what we have just completed. It’s then that we discover what mattered from the place we just left.
But there are other graduations.
In the midst of celebrating our granddaughter’s high school graduation, I received a message that my dear friend had passed away. It was another graduation. It was a transition for her, but also a transition for me as I let go of the friendship of more than 45 years of this gentle, sweet 93 year old.
Those of us who knew and loved her were not surprised by this graduation. We had seen it coming for a number of months. That was our advantage. We could take time to make the most of moments together even though we knew she was ready and eager for this graduation with no less enthusiasm than the graduations of our grandchildren.
She did not fear death as so many do. She had already completed the path and design God had set before her. Not unlike Paul she could say as he did in 2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV):
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
My friend understood and embraced what Max Lucado wrote about death:
“Very few people understand death. Most are afraid of it. Most try to ignore it. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. But God wants you to understand it. And He doesn’t want you to be scared. Many think death is when you go to sleep. They are wrong. Death is when you finally wake up. Death is when you see what God has seen all along.”
You see she had lived her life to the fullest, but with the end in mind.
Stephen Covey’s oft quoted Seven Habits of Highly Effective People lists “begin with the end in mind” as the second principle. This principle encourages each person to envision what you want for the future so you can work and plan toward it.
My friend had lived and loved each day knowing this particular graduation day would come even though she did not know when. It would be far more significant than her high school and college graduations. She had made a choice early in her life to set her eyes on the prize the Lord had laid up for her if she followed Him. Her choices each day reflected her desire to finish the course well.
Some of our last visits together were the most precious. We didn’t waste time on small matters or unimportant details nor did we feel compelled to fill up every moment with words. We had lived our friendship with purpose and had said the important things many times before. We had never taken time for granted so at this point in time, we could simply savor what mattered − holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, expressing gratitude for so many other times before this one, restating our love − praying together as we had done often.
Not all graduations are like that. Some surprise us. Some are laced with unfinished business and too many words that were left unsaid for too long.
Even so, they remind us of the wisdom Lisa Wingate writes in her book, The Sea Keeper’s Daughter:
“If you could know − if you could always know − when the lasts in life are coming, you’d handle them differently. You’d savor. You’d stop. You’d let nothing else invade the moment.”