The viney honeysuckles are blooming all over the banks of Clay now, just as they do every year at graduation time. That nostalgic scent will be forever intertwined in my mind with the long-ago memories of leaving the old high school for the last time.
I don't think there is any bigger milestone for a young person than high school graduation. There may be more significant events in one's life, such as college graduation, but I believe this sudden jump from adolescence to coming adulthood is the most traumatic. There is an eagerness to plunge into life headfirst, and yet there is a trepidation to leave the known world of childhood.
I still remember the confused emotions that ran through my mind as I accepted my diploma and marched out of Clay County High School for the last time as a student. Tears blurred my eyes as I realized that I would never see some of the students ever again. And now, 62 years later, many, many of my classmates are gone. Time takes a toll.
"Dreams are ours, to have and to hold"—that was our class motto. I wonder how many of our dreams really did come true? Life has so many crooks and turns, and unexpected happenings, that it cannot be planned beforehand. Of course it is great to have a goal, and work toward that end, but life cannot be set in stone.
The Bible bears this out in James 4-13:15, "Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that?"
I suppose that most young girls daydream of a handsome prince riding into their life on a white charger, to sweep them up and ride away into the sunset to live happily ever after. I'm sorry girls, but it usually doesn't happen that way—if ever. When we first built here where the old house once stood, we moved in January of that year to the tune of fresh 'dozing and mud. The house actually was almost surrounded by mud and water.
I told Criss' sister Roxie that I was a princess in a castle, surrounded by a moat, just waiting for my Prince Charming. She laughed and responded, "Your Fairy godmother has played a trick on you. She didn't send you a prince; she sent you Pinocchio! (Criss has a prominent nose, like most of the Bragg men. Sorry, Bragg men!)
Life rarely turns out like you think it will. A lot of it depends on choices, and many times we make bad ones. When we first become a semi-adult (I was only 16 when I graduated and didn't have a lick of sense) our attitude is, "Look out world, here I came!" You can fall flat on your face, and I'm afraid I did.
One of the saddest laments in the human language is, "Oh, if I could only do that over!" Sorry, you cannot.
You can only pick yourself up and lick your wounds and learn from them. I am so glad we have a Savior who not only picks us up, but also cleans us up and gives us a new beginning. The past will always leave scars, but the sins can be forgiven.
Oh, I wish there was some way we could impress upon our young people who are just starting out to make the right choices. We used to have a motto on the wall at church which said, "Only one life, Will soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last." It is amazing how fast life has passed. We just have one chance at it.
And so another crop of our graduating seniors are marching out the door, ready to face the world. There is another phase to this event, and that is watching our children and grandchildren pass this landmark. It is a bittersweet moment when we realize that they are leaving the nest and will be making their own decisions. We want to cry, "Oh, your feathers aren't dry yet—how can we let you go?"
I found a poem by Marjorie Holmes that I have kept for years.
How straight she sleeps, how slender-tall,
Daughter, daughter, recent small.
Gone the braids and pinafores,
And paper dolls upon the floors.
Party clothes across the bed,
Her hair spills shining free instead.
An orchid floats within the dish
That once held turtle, snail and fish.
Gone the tomboy, gone the child,
A woman dreams here, life-beguiled.
The bough must break, the bud must flower.
Daughter, daughter, soon the hour
When you, like others, come to wife.
This the pattern, this—life
But let me stand one moment brief
Cupping again the uncurled leaf
So small, so safe upon the tree—
Daughter, daughter, close to me.
(Dedicated to Crystal and her girls)
I look at this year's graduates and wonder—what will the future hold for them? They teeter on the threshold of adulthood, and we have gone as far as we can with them. We have to loosen our grip, and let them try their wings. They must be free to make their own decisions, to make their own mistakes and learn from them. There have been 18 years of preparation, but I wonder if we have done our best in preparing them for the future.
It is too late now to begin giving advice. The foundation was begun years ago, when they were just babies, in the instilling of godly principles and morals. The example was set before them, in the everyday life of parents and grandparents. They will probably stumble and fall, but their early training will enable them to get back up and try again. The letting go is hard on parents and children alike. We shed tears, and we pray—and we are here when they need us.