dear graduates…

Dear Graduates,

I’ve been reading some of the speeches that came your way these last few weeks. My feeling is you’ve been subjected to the extremes. You’ve either heard follow your heart/hitch your wagon to a star, passionately presented by the peter pans of our culture who refuse to grow up…or get married/get a job/settle down, boringly penned by the grown ups constantly trying to gandydance America back on track. Mercy. I’m sorry about that, you’re good sports to endure those trips to the poles. I’d like to offer you something from the middle, the speech I believe we really want you to hear as you step off into this thing called life, the prayer we whisper as you drive away: please don’t forget us.

You see, we’re scared you won’t need us anymore. Oh we’re beaming with pride that you’re swinging big and finding your drummer, and to think you’re even considering sacred commitments, well, let’s just say Jesus and David Brooks would be proud.  But please come home once in a while, bring the kids or your Rottweiler or your partner, stay a few days in the summer, holidays are nice too. Just don’t forget us. Whether we did right by you or wrong by you, most days we tried our god-honest-best, or at least the best we knew how. We promise to try and treat you like adults but the truth is we still see you as children, the incarnation of the magnificent maybe…that maybe things can change, that maybe life will be a little different your time around. But if you never visit or email, we’ll be hounded by the recurring nightmare that hope is a fool’s word, and we completely and utterly failed.

Now we don’t want you to worry about us. We do have our own lives. A trip to Machu Picchu after the knee replacement. An eye on that little snow cone stand that’s apparently in foreclosure. Possibly even turning your bedroom into an office. We’ve got dreams, yessir, no doubt about it. But you, you were always the best part of our beautiful American dream. So please don’t worry about us, just please don’t forget about us. You may recall we grew up listening to Glen Campbell’s song ‘Gentle On My Mind’…that’s what we want to be – gentle on your mind.

There you have it. Congratulations! Now go on. Change the world and be changed by it. Spend a decade or two trying to discover yourself while you spend Saturdays coaching t-ball and nights writing your screenplay. Introduce a friend to Vidalia onions and sleep with the window cracked when it rains. But don’t overly fret about finding your specific life calling. Your calling is to a life, to live. And we believe this includes dropping in or calling home from time to time. You don’t have to stay or talk long. Seeing your eyes or hearing your voice is like the dream reborn. We love you…God only knows how much.        

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  1. tim bergren on June 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    John, this speaks to me coming and going—as a father and as a son. Thanks…

  2. Kari Kounkel on June 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Speaking as the mother of a 2010 graduate who was nearly mad with grief during the summer of 2010, this post hits the nail on the head. My grief fled as my son settled into a happy life on his campus and kept in touch with us and his brother. Yes, we want to be remembered: we long to be one of the cherished pieces of his old life he chooses to carry into his new life. And, so far, we are. Praise God.

    • thebeautifuldue on June 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks for your words, Kari…I’m glad you’re remembered.

  3. Donna Erickson on June 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

    the truth and beauty of these words make me weep – and my ‘boys’, 27 & 33, have been graduated and ‘launched’ for years.

    The fear of being forgotten… no wonder I take such comfort in believing God calls me by name.
    Now if only my sons would follow suit!

    • thebeautifuldue on June 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Donna…that may very well be the universal human fear, that of being forgotten or abandoned…the opposite is the feeling that we belong.

      Be well.

  4. Jewels on May 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Well, I don’t know what the heck’s wrong with folks. You should be speaking at commencement. I love your words, John. I’m in the year between David and Jenny’s graduations, and we put so much (inadvertent, but still) pressure on kids when we ask them what they’re gonna do after school. I know I’m as guilty as the next person for asking where they’re going and what they’re doing. Maybe I should just say, “Congratulations!”, and tell them that they’ll find their way.

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