My daughter graduated today.
Walked across the very raised stage that innumerable others have crossed over the years. Strolling fast and hard, as though with a holy purpose. Her smile wide and bright as she ended one part of her life to embrace the next.
It was tough, no doubt about it. The first time I’ve had to go through something like that with one of my kids. You think you’re going to be okay, but you’re not. I imagine it’s much like walking over a bed of hot coals—you can steel yourself all you want, but nothing can keep you from that initial shock of pain, that sense of being in a situation that just may be bigger than yourself.
I pulled it off well enough, though. I smiled and waved and cheered, and during those few times when I could help myself, I lowered my head and clenched my eyes tight. No one saw this. I at least have that. In my mind, that still makes me Daddy in my daughter’s eyes. I’m still her rock, even if today showed all those cracks I try to hide. So no, I wouldn’t say it was all a total success on my part.
If there is any comfort to be had, it’s that I’ll have plenty of other opportunities to get things right. There will be more next-time’s. This was, after all, only her fifth grade ceremony. Call it a practice run for greater things down the road.
In three years comes her junior high graduation. Four years after that, she’ll leave high school.
College will follow. Then graduate school, if she has her way.
There will be her wedding one day. Her first child. All the children after.
These are all tiny moments really, at least with regards to time. Nothing more than a few hours in the long years of my daughter’s life. But big moments, too. The kind that define the people we grow to become.
Funny thing about life—we trick ourselves into believing there is one birth at the beginning, one death at the end, and in the middle only a long line of rises and falls. I don’t think that’s true. I think we have a great many births and deaths in life. We all are aware of those instances when something inside of us passes on so something greater can be born.
These moments like today with my daughter? They become signposts. Their light burns long after we’ve moved on. They serve as a witness to how far we’ve truly come in our lives, something we can look back upon in those tedious times that come to us all.
I plan to be there with my daughter as she meets her own signposts. I want to stroll beside her as she takes her first steps upon the long road of her life. Because that road gets lonely sometimes, and dark. There are shadows and thickets. Sometimes, there are monsters. I know this is true. I think we all do. Maybe that’s why I lowered my head and clenched my eyes. Because I know what’s out there, and because I know it doesn’t matter how big my daughter grows or how old she gets, she’ll always be my little girl. And I pray that when her way grows weary and her walk long, the hand she will always reach for will be my own.