Thursday, May 5, 2016

Graduation: Thursday's Reflection

Saturday I drove past Augsburg College in Minneapolis and
Oh dear, my high school graduation day--bad hair and all! 
noticed small clusters of people. Each cluster included someone adorned in cap and gown. Graduation!

I immediately flashed on graduation days in my own life: high school and college, my husband Bruce's from medical school and of course, our children's graduations. And then just as quickly I thought how quickly Maren, our 13 year old granddaughter, will graduate from high school. 

Graduations are special days of celebration. 

A Brief Story
Both my husband Bruce and I graduated from St Olaf College in 1970. We had dated each other during those years, but not senior year. After the commencement ceremony, graduates picked up their actual diplomas in the registrar's office. Bruce and I passed each other on the walk outside the office, and I blithely said to him, "Have a nice life." Little did we know in just over a year we would marry each other and would create that "nice life" together.   

Graduations signal an ending and a beginning, one we hope will lead us to the desired "nice life." We graduate from something and someplace and graduate to something and someplace else. Graduation becomes a time of transition when we hold past, present, and future in our hands in the same moment. 

Imagine the person you are now walking across the stage of a commencement ceremony today. Take a deep breath and ask yourself,  What is it I am graduating from?  As I view my life what regrets or hurts require graduation? What "shoulds" I've held onto rigidly for oh, so many years deserve a ceremony of "been there, done that"? How about judgements about the way I think things or people should be --oops, another "should." Where have I been closed? 

As you return to your seat, diploma in hand, ask yourself, What does graduation signal for my present and my future? Graduation is a time to be grateful for the accomplishments in our life, the learnings and the ways we have been able to use our gifts and skills. How can I use my gifts now? What is it I am called to do now? Be now? Are there people we need to thank for their help, support and guidance over the years?   

How well do I really know myself? In what ways can I be more open? Where do I need to redirect my energy? What relationships do I need to tend? Can I build on my life experiences to live with more compassion, love and forgiveness? 

There are no official additional degrees or diplomas in my future and yet, graduation can be an ongoing theme in our wisdom years. 

                                For Celebration
                               John O'Donohue

                      Now is the time to free the heart,
                      Let all intentions and worries stop,
                      Free the joy inside the self,
                      Awaken to the wonder of your life.

                      Open your eyes and see the friends
                      Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
                      Those whose kindness watchful and near,
                      Encourages you to live everything here.

                      See the gifts the years have given,
                      Things your effort could never earn,
                      The health to enjoy who you want to be
                      And the mind to mirror mystery.
                                            From To Bless the Space Between Us
                                                      A Book of Blessings 

An Invitation
Think of yourself as a graduate today. Listen to your heart. Where is your graduation leading you now? I would love to know. 


  1. Dear Nan, So many memories - and so many beginnings.In June I'm going to Kay's because the little Waldorf school where Wallace (14) is leaving 8th grade, celebrates this passage into the larger public high school. As you said about Maren, we can see Wallace quickly moving toward a larger, less protected life.
    Tonight at Stillpoint we are "graduating" the 20 people who joined us in an 8-month study which began with Thomas Merton's book, New Seeds of Contemplation. Our theme has been "awareness, awareness, awareness." Tonight we are leaving our little band with Merton's photo of a hook hanging in the sky, titled "The only known picture of God."

  2. Graduation seems to need ritual, doesn't it? What you have planned sounds thoughtful and lovely and offers ongoing awareness of always beginning.
    And how can Wallace be at this stage?

  3. The heady days of graduating and accumulating diplomas! I's easy to remember the ceremonies, and forget the hard work! Good thoughts to all who are immersed in going through this ritual this spring!

  4. Yes, indeed. Thanks for your good thoughts.


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