Last night, I made one of my son’s favorite meals for dinner and figured out how to AirPlay from my computer to my smart TV a virtual pre-graduation event. God bless the school and all the Senior Class Parents for trying, but the whole thing left us feeling, well, dissatisfied. Last night should have been a packed house graduation honoring my son and his healthy classmates on the 30th anniversary of my own graduation from the same school. We had been looking forward to that. Instead we had aa drive-by, hand-you-your-cap-and-gown-through-your-car-window parade through the ghost town campus, followed by an online awards ceremony, complete with buffering and glitching. “Real” graduation is set for a month from now and will be the distanced opposite of the packed house that these kids deserve as much or more than any graduating class before them. You might say we were smack in the center of the anger phase of the grief process.
Our graduating seniors are about to make one of life’s most challenging transitions, and they are doing it with more than the normal or even acceptable grief associated with leaving high school and all of what that stage in life represents. Santa Fe Presbyterian Church has three students graduating from three different high schools this year, not to mention our college students who are graduating into the most dismal job market this nation has seen since the Great Depression. None of the adults in our students’ lives has had their senior year canceled, so no one knows exactly what to do or say in these circumstances. The question for us as a church is, “How do we minister to them?”
Whether they know it or not, what they are experiencing is grief. And though it may seem trivial, or somehow less grief-y that there isn’t a death of a loved one involved, the truth is that the grief they are experiencing needs to be handled and processed just like any other grief so that they can progress through life without being haunted. These somewhat dissatisfying replacements for the traditional rites of passage are important, because the dissatisfaction and the resulting conversations about how slighted they feel help to lance the grief wound and expel the feelings that need to be expelled. My son did not want to watch the ceremony last night. I insisted. This is why. It helped us to experience the disappointment and appreciate the efforts of the people who tried and tried valiantly to fill that date and time on the calendar with something meaningful.
Please hold Nathan in your prayers as he graduates from college. Please hold Brink, Ian, and Macy in your prayers as they graduate from high school. Our church will be honoring them in the best, however dissatisfying, ways that we can, because it’s important. Please join us for Youth Sunday and some form of a reception on June 14 at 11:00 online or in person. Deepest sympathies – Reverend Laurel