Friday, May 23, 2008

Graduation

Tonight was such a bittersweet night. It was our third “Vespers” dinner, a night honoring the Seniors who will graduate tomorrow. I knew that it would be hard for me, but it was even harder. I was fine until the slide show. I had steeled myself beforehand, vowing that no “Sunrise, Sunset” violin-playing sentimentality would get to me after everything I’ve witnessed lately. But there I was, making a public spectacle of myself....wiping my nose on my mother’s pashmina before blowing it into the linen napkin.

I usually get teary at these kinds of things. I have inherited my father’s sensitive spirit. (He was a WWII soldier who would cry at the sound of a beautiful symphony or exquisite aria.) Even before Katherine’s brain rupture, I had expected to be uniquely challenged by this particular one. But I didn’t anticipate that such a fierce flash flood of emotion would rush over my dam of self-protection and sweep me into a stall in the ladies’ room, where a compassionate friend held the door as I sobbed outloud.

After ignominiously returning to my seat, I tried to regain my composure. I tried to think about something happy. I tried to think about something boring. I tried to recite Romans 8 in my head, but those images of innocence lost kept replaying until the tears started drizzling down again.

I think if we’re all really honest with ourselves we’ll admit that, no matter how joyful and fun our high school experiences were, there was an emotional underbelly to the beast. Any psychologist worth the price of their degree will tell you how deeply affected human beings are at this vulnerable, fragile age. Some people never get over high school.

I’ve spent a lot of time around high schoolers, and sometimes I know too much for my own good. Last night, speeches were made extolling how close and unified the class of ‘08 is....how it is such a caring, supportive one. I’m sure that in many ways it is. But flashing through the sequence of happy, funny pictures were big-screen subliminal messages referencing for me the underside of high school life. There were subtle reminders of the ubiquitous broken relationships, severed friendships, and lost loyalties of high school....the injured self-esteem, wounded egos, hurt feelings, rejections.....the pretenses, pretending, posturing..... the misunderstandings, misconceptions, missed opportunities for forgiveness. Invisible walls of separation erected by fear, envy, or anger stood in contrast to joyful pyramids of team-spirited togetherness. Although molehills often turn into mountains at this age, I don’t dismiss high school hurts as insignificant. Those of us who’ve been around a while know that life-long destructive patterns can begin in high school...patterns like addictions, eating disorders, trust issues, intimacy issues. Scars carved upon fragile young hearts sometimes take many years to heal.

I think there’s still a little “High School” in a lot of us. There’s a tiny corner somewhere deep inside that still holds on to that hope, those dreams, that nervous excitement, the exhilarating feeling of infinite possibility. But in many of us there also resides that knee-jerk high school reaction to people and events....the quickness to take offense, the eagerness to judge and label, that difficulty in forgiving and moving on. We carry with us a residual fear of failing the test, being left out of the party, not sitting at the cool table at lunch. We are sometimes guilty of possessing the passions of High School....of seeing things as black and white, of not understanding that there are two sides to every story, thinking it’s all about me. But, unlike teenagers, we can’t blame it on incomplete pre-frontal cortex development.

The weekend before Katherine collapsed in her kitchen, I was harboring a little High School myself. I was feeling hurt about being excluded from something, I was angry that someone had been mean to my child, I was worried about people and things that were out of my control.

I can’t even begin to tell you how insignificant all that seemed by Monday afternoon.

In theory, we all know that each time we see someone could be the last. But we don’t live that way.

To all of us High Schoolers, myself first of all, I say this: Let it go. Whatever it is. Lay it down. Stop being afraid of being hurt. Give everybody you know a break. Pass out “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. Just forgive. And forgive. And forgive some more. For God’s sake, for your sake, for their sake.....just let it go.

G.K. Chesterton expressed it beautifully: “We’re all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

It is my prayer that we all graduate from Life’s school of suffering more loving, compassionate, forgiving, and loyal....and less judgmental, superficial, and self-serving.

The final exam will be a pop test.

***************

(This was begun late Saturday night, but not finished until Monday morning. It was a long weekend, but I'll never have to go through another one! Here's a toast to all my friends who just made it through their last high school graduation, too: YAAAAAY...we did it!!!!! High 5's!)

5 comments:

Brittany said...

Miss Kim,
You are so right... every single one of us still lives in the "highschool" zone. Thank you for reminding me of that tonight. I am on my knees tonight hard for Katherine. We will not forget about you out there. We are still behind you 100%- I also wanted to say that as an ICU nurse myself it sounds like the Lord has handpicked her precious nurses out there. I am going to keep asking him to surround Katherine with medical staff that serve with such a loving heart. I know they have all fallen in love with her

Brittany Wood Bolemon

Ginny Evans said...

Thank you Kim for allowing God to speak through you. I cannot tell you how this touched my heart. We are praying for Katherine constantly and for all of you. Ginny

Lara said...

Kim,
Thank you so much for sharing that with us! I needed that reality check. Your words touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Praying for you and sweet Katherine!
Blessings,
Lara

sam said...

Kim!

You are SUCH a poet! An amazing writer and an even more AMAZING woman and mother! I feel blessed to now know where Katherine got her amazing spirit and light!

I am learning so much from you and Katherine both right now.

We love you both and are constantly praying for you and Katherine, Jay and James every single day.

Love,
Samia Doumit-Contreras

aemarsha said...

Kim,

I just wrote a blog myself that relates to this, that "high school" mentality. I think we've all been guilty of this at one point or another, and you are so right-how insignificant all of that is when faced with pain and suffering. We are thinking and praying for your family always.

Love,
Alice