Ironing The Graduation Gown

by Deborah Wade

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This is reality—full of pain and promise.

As you press the material into a flat sheen, you have the sense that this can’t be happening. Your daughter is not actually going to walk across the stage tonight and receive a diploma. Your son is not really going to pack his laptop and head off to the dorm, leaving old photographs, scuffed cleats, and ticket stub treasures in his unoccupied room like so many reminders of a game already played.

The hot steam hits your hand as you smooth the fabric. This is reality—full of pain and promise.

You’d like to iron things out in your mind in one neatly processed whole but you can only touch on fragments: the feel of flannel wrapped around the crying bundle who taught you what it means to truly love; the scent of baby shampoo on cotton-soft curls; the sight of him with his first ice cream cone dripping onto his toddler-sized Nikes; the thrill of letting go of her bicycle seat as she peddled on her own; the determined set of his jaw on the pitcher’s mound in the pouring rain; the way she walked in her first pair of heels; the grin he gave you on his way out the door after you turned down the collar on his first tuxedo.

It all happened in an instant, and here you are pinning the graduation cap in place and adjusting the tassel.

Why is this moment so searing? Do eagles grieve as they force their eaglets from the nest, or polar bears cry as the next generation sets off across the ice? No, instinct pushes them forward without angst. But there is more than instinct involved in the human launch to adulthood. There is a yearning for continued relationship—beyond the home, the collegiate experience, marriage, family … beyond even this life.

And why shouldn’t this be so? Jesus Christ has set eternity in our hearts. We long for eternal relationship with Him and with each other. The good news is that all of the goodbyes we face today, whether purposeful goodbyes following graduations and marriages, or seemingly meaningless goodbyes associated with death, will be forgotten for those who know Christ. It is our partings that will seem surreal as we enjoy each other fully for eternity. Then we will see every bittersweet goodbye for what it is…a mere wrinkle in time.