56 beautiful young people mill about all on the verge of being launched into a world and experiences beyond their current scope of comprehension.
The parents of these young people sit in the pews beaming with pride, breathing sighs of relief, hoping for the future.
The music is practiced, the final instructions made clear.
It's time for the parents to line up to practice their part.
Just before they reach the stage, they are asked to sign the diploma for their child.
There is one blank for Instructor and one for School Administrator.
It's my turn. Wait! Which blank do I sign?
Well, for the most part, the mothers have been signing on the Instructor blank and the fathers on the one for School Administrators, I overhear.
Oh. Oh! Okay...well, where does that leave me? It seems a tad awkward to sign in both places, so I pick up the lovely pen provided and write my name in my best handwriting over the Instructor blank.
Then the tears come. Unbidden, unwanted...and unnoticed by others at first.
Then a sweet woman stops to ask me a question and looks startled. "Oh, you're crying! Are you okay?"
I can't even slow the flow enough to squeak out an answer at first. Another kind woman I've only briefly met before steps back and suddenly remembers my story. She hugs me and offers to pray with me...I say over and over, "It's okay...I'll be okay..." hoping against hope that it's true. I can't cry up there on the platform!!!
My husband should BE here...he should BE here celebrating this major achievement in not only Luanna's life, but in ours as a family.
With his love and support and encouragement, Luanna did this! I did this!
And with Michael's God-given foresight, he made sure I could continue doing this after his death!
Thirteen years of hard work culminating in a beautiful celebration of the part parents play in their children's education SHOULD include Michael!
But he's not here.
I imagine him visiting with the father in line just in front of us. He seems to have a wonderful family.
I imagine him bravely making his way up the narrow steps to the platform on his crutches, a massive and proud grin on his face, ready with some goofy pun that gets Luanna saying, "Oh, Dad..." yet loving it all the same.
I imagine he would remember twice crossing that very same stage to receive his own diploma.
I imagine standing opposite him as we hand our daughter her hard-earned reward at graduation.
I imagine his smile and pose for the camera...he definitely had a certain smile he used for pictures.
I imagine him completely being the life of her party the next day, mixing and mingling and being the host I have never been able to be.
I imagine the host of selfies he'd take with Luanna...until she's telling him to stop already!
I imagine his many Facebook posts declaring his pride in his daughter to the whole social media world.
I imagine we will be missing him greatly this weekend.
I imagine...no, I KNOW I can never be him.
I am not comfortable with pictures of myself, I don't post much on Facebook, I'm not funny OR "pun-ny," and I'm far from being the life of the party.
But I AM the mother of a gorgeous bunch of kids who have shined like stars in the darkest of night skies.
I AM the mother of a high school graduate with a very healthy GPA and plans for college in the fall.
I AM the mother of a young lady who has overcome some serious obstacles in her pathway to reach this point.
I AM the mother of some precious children who know they wouldn't have a chance if it weren't for the amazing blessings of our Heavenly Father - and they've seen Him work for us and in us repeatedly.
I AM a mother who has put many, many imperfectly executed hours into the education of her children because she loves them so very much and longs for them to find God's plan for their lives.
I AM a mother who may not know everything, but I DO know how my children think and feel about almost everything because we are a tightly bound family, with bonds forged through flames and flood.
I AM a woman who knows her strength, wisdom, peace, stamina, courage, and what little creativity is left comes straight from her Abba Father...
and that's how she keeps on going...
I hope Michael is allowed a glimpse of this celebration.
I hope he knows how much we miss him.
And I hope he's proud of how we've marched forward...
through the fog, through the pain...
Because I KNOW he would want us to.
MPE Graduating class of 2015 has chosen the following as their class verse:
"But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be afraid."
Isaiah 40:31, Michael's life verse
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Words: Dallan Forgail (8th Century)
If these graduates have truly made these words their prayer, they, too, will live as Michael lived and leave behind a legacy worth following.