Graduation and Death

Posted: May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

We’re on the way to the college graduation of a family member, my daughter and I. We’ll all be there, the extended family, sharing in this rite of passage. And suddenly out of the blue I turn to my conversation partner, this girl who thinks really odd thoughts, odder than mine, and share something equally odd:

“This graduation, you know what it’s really about?”

“What?” she asks me.

“It’s about death.”

“Come again.”

“It’s about death and how all of us a little older are rooting on those a little younger in hopes that they continue our species. It’s about hope in the face of death. In addition to loving the person who is graduating, we want the race to survive. It’s the same whether it’s birthdays, weddings, graduations …”

“That’s weird, Dad.”

Maybe so. But I don’t think so. We swing into a little town and I say I want to check on a friend. When I pull up to his business she decides to stay in the car. It won’t be long, I tell her.

When I go inside the receptionist greets me with bad news. “You haven’t heard, have you?” No I hadn’t. “He’s in chemo now. It’s bad, not responding.” I’m in shock. He was a high school buddy. But I’m fortunate because my friend stopped by for a while and he’s in his office in the back. They take me back to him.

We talk about his condition, the choices he’s having to make and why. We talk about his children. We talk about some silly times we shared together. We hug. I tell him I want to know what happens. And when I walk out the door I look him square in the eye and he does the same. We both know this may be the last time we see each other face to face.

Out in the car, time has moved on without daughter knowing why Dad is so delayed inside. I apologize. I tell her the story. She says it’s alright, she understands. We pull out of the parking lot and head down the road.

Maybe ten minutes pass in silence. The always thinking daughter says, “I know this makes you sad. I’m sorry.”

More time passes.

“It’s ironic,” she says. “I mean this just after you talking about graduation. You know, graduation and death, why we go, what we’re doing.”

“Yes, it’s ironic,” I say. And we keep driving toward the caps and gowns, the address and diplomas, the beginning and end, the long road we must all travel.

  1. Jane says:

    We should celebrate it all, shouldn’t we?

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