I know that many of you are attending or have attended graduations this past week. I attended my grandson, Clay’s high school graduation, and let me tell you, I will never forget this one, and I want to pass on to you, and have you pass on to your children this particular event.
The boy’s name was Breck Young, and he, like the rest of the graduates, had paid his dues getting through school. He had just picked up his cap and gown from Eastern High School. He was with his friend, Vince Romeo. And then, for reasons known only to God, he was distracted. His right wheel apparently dropped off the road and he overcorrected. (How many parents have warned their new-driver-children of this danger?) I remember when I took Clay out to learn to drive, I intentionally made him drop his right front wheel off the road and then instructed him to continue driving with his wheel off the road until he could slow down to a crawl, and to then gently turn left and get back on the road, when it was all clear. Kids have a tendency to drop a wheel off the road and then to yank the wheel back, which, in a worst-case scenario, makes them start flipping over and over. It was thus for Breck, and his friend, Vince, who himself had just graduated from Trinity High School, and was riding with Breck. I could imagine them, as we all once were, laughing, playing the radio, joking and feeling that exhilaration we all felt at that turn of our lives. Our whole lives ahead of us, and invincible. What bad could happen on such a fun-filled, promising day? I try to picture them. I CAN picture them. I know how it was. I can remember driving my dad’s Buick down the dual lane with a car full of girlfriends, and driving the speedometer up to a hundred just because I wanted to see how it felt. I know all of you can remember things you did that make you shudder today. Being young makes you think that you will live forever. Only old people die. So exciting, to have your own car, your own drivers license, being free, graduating in a couple of days, your whole world ahead of you. Breck was going in to pre-med at the University of Louisville in the fall. He wanted to be a Pediatrician. He had obtained his goal of graduating high school, and was hell-bent for the future. It was all his! Then his wheel dropped off the road; he swung back on the road. It was 2:30 in the afternoon of a sunny balmy day of freedom and promise. When he swung back on the road he began flipping. He flipped and flipped and flipped. And then he was dead.
At the graduation ceremony, every student, as he/she filed in, had a long stemmed rose in his/her hand. Each rose was deposited on a table draped with a white cloth. By the time the last graduate placed her rose some had slipped off the table, as there were over 500. Something in my mind said, how symbolic. Some always drop off the table of life. When it came time for the presentation of the diplomas, the Assistant Principal approached the microphone with a voice that could hardly contain the tremors and eyes filled with tears, she announced that Breck Young had completed all the requirements of his High School Graduation, and with great sorrow, he was not here to receive his diploma. She nodded to an empty chair containing his graduation gown, cap, and tassel. She then directed her gaze to the front row of families, and asked Breck’s parents to come up and receive his diploma. Breck’s parents arose and went up the steps. Every person in the whole arena stood, and there were no dry eyes. Sobs could be heard throughout the arena. To know what they were suffering, and to know that it could have been any of us, almost dropped us to our knees. Why this kid? How was mine spared? How were all of ours spared, who surely had done the same thing? Does the hand of fate just reach down from above and pick someone, anyone? Thoughts flooded my mind. When the parents returned to their seats, my eyes stayed on them. The names of the graduates continued.
Staying composed, the parents stayed through the whole presentation of diplomas and the speeches afterwards. I kept glancing at them. God be with them, I whispered. God be with them.
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