It was a sunny Saturday morning and the program seemed to be in readiness. The band was seated at the side of the platform, and the choir was arranged on the opposite side. The class sponsors, superintendent of schools, principal, members of the school board and the three top scholars were all seated on the platform, waiting. Off to the side, the graduates stood in their blue and gold caps and gowns.
The bleachers were filled to overflowing with proud parents, grandparents, family and friends. The 86th annual commencement service was about to begin. The sweltering crowd stood as the band launched into "Pomp and Circumstance" and the Clay County High School Class of 2002 solemnly marched in and took their places. It was a moment of pride and accomplishment to witness twelve years of education completed.
As if on cue, an errant breeze sprung up and carried the scent of honeysuckle that was blooming on the road bank across from the football field. The honeyed fragrance of that flower, the very essence of graduation, evoked a flood of memories of school days past and gone.
Our grandson Joseph, the eleventh of our grandchildren to go through this ceremony, was in this graduating class. At 6 feet 5 inches, he stood taller than most of his classmates, and is a handsome young man that would make any grandparent proud.
Graduation is always an emotional event, and there were parents and grandparents all around who were wiping tears from their eyes. This seems a giant step from childhood school days to the unsettling status of an adult. We always feel that they are not ready, and have an urge to protect them just a little longer. When Joseph was born, I wrote this in a column, "Joseph Andrew Bragg first saw the light of day on May 16, 1984. It was such a rapid transition from a world of dark warmness to sudden bright lights and strange people that he screamed in terror. The first voice he heard was from a young male who exclaimed in eagerness, 'It's a boy!'
"Then the jolly doctor handed him to a nurse who wrapped him in a blanket and reached him to a sandy-haired young man who seemed vaguely familiar. He felt so secure cuddled in those strong arms that he stuck his fist in his mouth and quit crying. That was his first introduction to his father, Andy. "Joseph, who weighed 2 ounces short of 9 pounds, is a comely baby with a fuzz of dark hair topping a round, fat face. He came home to a bewildering array of aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. A 3-year-old sister, who is a dark-eyed little beauty with a maternal air, eagerly claimed him. He also has an older brother Benji, who will soon be 6."
So many memories run through your mind when you see the milestones in your children's lives. It is hard to realize that the years have passed so swiftly and these little babies have grown up so fast. It seems such a short time ago that Joseph was toddling around the house, and now he has been accepted in the Air National Guard. I'll never forget how Jessica appointed herself as his guardian and protector. She was so possessive of him that I told her at one time, "Jessica, Joseph is Benji's little brother too." With her dark eyes snapping, she informed me, "Well, he's a little bit Benji's, but a whole lot mine!" She is sitting beside me now, and the tears are freely flowing. She has always kept a protecting arm about her brothers, and finds it difficult to see them enter an unknown world.
It is a scary and bewildering world that awaits our young people. Parents have made major choices for them and tried to protect them from the hard knocks that the world has in store for them, but now they will be making their own choices. It is too late to try to instill in them morals and values that should have been taught from their babyhood.
They are facing a world vastly different than the one we grew up in as children. They are faced with pressures that we never dreamed of, and surrounded by a different atmosphere. They are much more advanced in knowledge, sophisticated in culture, and mature for their years. They are going into a world where crime and violence is rampant, corruption in government is commonplace, and wickedness abounds in high places.
We must pray much for our children. In this fast changing world, the only unchanging thing is the solid rock, Christ Jesus. We pray for God to hold our young ones in His hands; we pray for parents to have the wisdom to direct their children in the right way, to instill in them a love for God and His teachings that will lead them to salvation. We pray for the children to find that anchor early in their lives, the anchor to the soul that holds us steady when the world is in turmoil.
Cousin Alyce Faye