The significance of today’s graduation ceremony was in no way lost on me.
Seven years ago, as I started counseling, there were a couple key dates in my mind as I wondered what my future mental state would be. Luke’s high school graduation was one of them. I have contemplated many times over what the day would look like and I had always hoped for genuine peace and a settled soul. God was gracious to grant me those today.
I know it’s not about me today and I’m not trying to steal all the warmth of the sun. But today has incredible significance for both Luke and me. I used to struggle with full-on panic attacks and intense anxiety, to the point I couldn’t think or function. When you’re in that kind of struggle it’s hard to imagine a future without it. I had a goal and a dream that I would be able to sit with or near former family members and feel normal, happy, and secure in who I was. That happened today and my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
I have been so emotional this week and my years of counseling have taught me to really connect with my feelings. A few days ago I met a woman named Stacy who had sold my dad a pool table. I stopped by her house to get her paid and found out that her son had just graduated from high school. Her eyes filled with tears as she shared about the bond they have, and the loss her younger son was feeling as he prepared for his big brother to leave for college. She said something that lingered with me as I left—she told me that my son graduating would be more difficult than expected, and that I needed to prepare. I realized I had been so busy remodeling and staging the house I’d been working on that I hadn’t really given much thought to graduation. So I decided to be very intentional with my thoughts and emotions as I approached this week.
I sat down and closed my eyes and pictured this day. I took it all in and evaluated what I might feel like. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief as I identified them as emotions I needed to link arms with in order to experience joy on graduation day. I had 72 hours left to submerge so there was no time to waste. This is such a powerful gift we can give ourselves because it allows our deep emotions to come to the surface with full expression and connection.
I allowed the sadness to flood my body, and mourning and loss to fill my heart. I spent two days crying ugly, try-to-catch-your-breath tears that rolled down my face like a heavy, cold rain on a window pane. I listened to the lyrics of a worship number (over and over and over) that Luke would sing at graduation, attempting to convince myself that “it’s just another song,” and desperately trying to put out of my mind that this would be his last high school performance. The thing is, I’m not sure I’m ready for his next chapter. And the beautiful thing is, he is.
I let my closest friends know what was going on and they helped walk me through these days of deep grief. I gave myself permission to embrace the loss I was experiencing—preparing to send off an amazing son and brother to my other son, someone who really took on a father-like leadership role in our home. I processed what it would look like at our house after he leaves for college (me and Jake rattling around by ourselves). I let myself go to the saddest, emptiest places and I mourned and grieved in the deepest waters.
And then, the night before graduation, I went out to dinner with one of my dearest, life-long friends. She is someone who has always encouraged me to let my kids go and experience life. She has told me on many occasions that my job is to raise responsible, functioning humans who love God and others well. For years I have been repeating those words, working toward a healthy transition for my kids. She gave me one final pep talk last night and today, when I woke up, I felt so at peace. As I got ready this morning I blasted songs from the 80’s and ended with U2’s “Beautiful day.” I was ready. It was time.
When I met up with my former husband and former sister-in-law in the parking lot, I grabbed each of them individually and gave them a big hug. My heart was literally bursting with gratitude; not only was my son graduating from high school, but I was celebrating a graduation of sorts. I had always hoped on this day my heart would be in a place of unexplainable peace and acceptance of my situation and by the grace of God, it was. Today was a true celebration of an incredible young man and I couldn’t help but acknowledge the two other people who helped raise him. Luke probably didn’t need parents at all but somehow the three of us got the honor of feeding, clothing, housing and loving him over the last couple of decades.
We took a few minutes to snap some quick pics. They took some of me and the boys and I did the same for them. And then we walked together to our seats on the football field. When I got to mine I closed my eyes and took in the moment…one that was fueled by years of hard work and God’s goodness and grace…one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Today was a reminder that it’s not our circumstances that determine our joy, it’s the condition of our hearts. God has given me His incredible gift of redemption and I will continue to work on my heart as I anticipate and prepare for the future big events that lie ahead.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.