Commencement has special meaning to certain people at a specific time in their lives. Whether from kindergarten, elementary, junior high, senior high, college, university, med school, vet school, law school, or grad school of any kind, commencement means satisfactory completion of academic requirements necessary for commencing, moving forward, to what lies ahead.
During the past nearly nine years of Perspectives articles, I’ve written a number of times about commencement. Those articles had as their subject the graduation of our grandchildren from some of the educational institutions listed above. It’s time for another one.
The event occurred this past weekend in Stephenville, Texas, a small university town southwest of Fort Worth. After what must surely have seemed a very long haul for her (and for her parents), our granddaughter Kayla received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Hallelujah!
For nursing students, commencement includes two separate events. The first night is the pinning ceremony, a serious yet celebratory evening where each student walks across the stage to receive a nursing pin. At Tarleton State, a public university, this ceremony began and ended with prayer. Mind you, these were not generic prayers. They ended in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! At a state university! That blew me away!
The next morning was the actual awarding of degrees at the commencement service. It also began with prayer, to an unnamed deity, with a simple “Amen” at the end. No mention of Jesus or even of God. My referring to this prayer is not an effort to be picky. After all, this is a state university. And in today’s cultural environment, I’m surprised any prayer was even included.
While waiting for Kayla’s turn on stage, I watched the crowd of family and friends gathered to share the joy of their loved ones who were commencing that day. Many graduates were greeted with shouts and cheers. Loud ones! Other grads received only polite applause from the crowd. That led me to believe not many of their friends or family members were able to be present.
At one point I noticed the lady sitting next to me. As a graduate who must have been her daughter crossed the stage, this lady broke down in tears. Those were surely tears of joy, shed in relief that this part of her daughter’s professional preparation was now concluded. They were also probably tears of release, most likely from the emotional and financial burdens that accompany as rigid and lengthy a curriculum as the nursing program assuredly is.
For Kayla’s parents (our daughter Angie and husband Todd), her brother Kolby, her grandparents (Terry and I), Todd’s father Steve and grandmother Martha, and the many other members of our family who love her dearly but were not table to be present, this commencement was an event to remember!