Friday, May 8, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast

The first thing on my to-do list this morning was to find my waterproof mascara. I knew I would need it today.

Today was graduation day at the SECEP REACH Program here at St. Mary's.

(SECEP = Southeastern Cooperative Educational Program and REACH = Raising expectations and abilities for children with complex health needs)

They provide the educational services here, and 12 of our kids graduated today. What this means is that these 12 young people will turn 21 before the end of the next school year, so sometime during this coming year, they will leave us without their smiles to look forward to every day.

On this most special day of the year at the Home, we never know whether to cheer madly or weep copious tears, so we end up doing a lot of both. Cheer because this is a milestone for them, and they are the center of attention - the stars of our best show. Copious tears because we know, deep down to the depths of our souls, that no matter where they go, no one will love them as much as we do or take care of them as well as we did. That's our opinion and we're sticking to it.

The waterproof mascara came in handy, as the water was running down my face. Some of those kids I have known since they were wee bairns from the time I first set foot there in 1992 - 17 years ago. In fact, 6 of the 12 kids are 'old-timers' and 4 of the graduates are currently on my caseload. It is going to be harder than any of us can ever express to have to say goodbye to them.

Put very simply - they are our children and we love them, but it is time for them to leave the nest.

And let me tell you, our ceremony had as much pomp as any graduation you will find anywhere. We had a video presentation with pictures of the kids throughout their lives (that's what started the boo-hooing), a color guard (staff pushing 3 kids in their chairs who present the flags and march in formation), a special friend of each child who spoke on their behalf, a speech by the CEO, a keynote speaker (this year it was a local author), the presentation of diplomas, the works.

And after the ceremony, we had a pig roast with all the fixins. Oh, and 'certain person from Texas who knows who he is' - it was local pulled pork BBQ, the best kind. Best of all, no one caught swine flu.

Sonja - that is a lovely blog post on St. Mary's blog about the festivities.

Finally, a parting thought from the graduation program today:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and the daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you, but they are not from you,
and though they are with you, they belong not to you.

You can give them your love but not your thoughts.
They have their own thoughts.
You can house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

-adapted by Ysaye M. Barnwell from a work by Khalil Gibran


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Dang. You got me tearing up.

Busty Boomer (aka Kathy) said...

I teared up all day, so you have to too.

Donna-FFW said...

Geez, you brought tears to my eyes, and that darned poem,brought even more.

Busty Boomer (aka Kathy) said...

Wow, Donna & Rosie. I'm so glad I can bring joy to everyone's day! ;-)

Marilyn said...

Many hugs to you and the graduates.