Do you find that when you spend time with your parents, or grandparents, they begin to tell stories of their life? You might be sitting together over a cup of hot coffee and they suddenly remember about the time they met their spouse? Maybe grandma starts telling the story of how grandpa made jokes every time they went out? Or how he was such a gentleman and always opened the car doors – which he still does all these years later. Maybe she tells the story to your kids of what it was like when you were born. Kids love to hear these stories! They eat them up!
You see, almost 12 years ago, my father passed away. At that time, I was given one of those books where you can write these stories down. As my dad was sick, he felt the need to share those stories with us everyday, knowing that they would otherwise be lost forever. I wrote down those stories as fast as I could every day, sitting next to him in his hospice room. I asked him questions, scouring that book to choose the perfect ones!
As I look back on that book today, there are two problems. One, I can barely read my chicken scratch – I don’t have great handwriting to begin with – but trying to write everything down so quickly made it even harder to read! But I also missed so much. I couldn’t possibly write down everything he said so I just tried to capture the big nuggets. The big takeaways. The big ideas. But that’s not enough. I have unfinished sentences, partial stories, and I literally wrote the words “ha ha” to show that he was making a joke since that doesn’t come across in writing. I find myself wishing I would have taken more time to fully write the answers, but if I would have done that… it would have been a trade off for the number of stories I got to hear. How could I possibly make that decision! So what I’m left with is a book full of half sentences, partial stories and wonder about so many parts of his life. I have lost him, to the pen.
Ok, so we’ve got part of the story… that’s a start, right. Here’s the other thing though… our conversations often took a turn. One conversation merged into a new topic, one that was not in front of me on the pages. That’s where the good stuff comes out! The life’s lessons, his big ideas, the times he got in trouble or what he learned. I couldn’t find a place in the book to write those answers down without flipping through and searching… being a distraction to his words. I got to hear him talk about the real stuff is his life, but I did not capture them to share again. They too, were lost to the pen.
At that time, I carried a Blackberry phone. Video was not yet a thing. Recording was not yet popular and the cameras that were in those early phones were poor quality at best! Things are different today. Photos are taken everyday in huge amounts. Have you taken one yet today? I bet you will!
We have the ability – not just the ability – we have the extremely easy ability today to do a better job than I did back then. We all carry around these super high quality cameras and camcorders in our pockets and it is SO easy to record everyday life! I can tell you for myself, so many of my videos are not important. It’s because it’s too easy to just click record – but when the moments matter – that’s when we need to click the record button.
If only I had thought of that when I had the chance.
Do you have a graduating senior in your family? Someone graduating from high school? How are they celebrating? Are they able to have a party? Has their graduation ceremony been modified, or worse, cancelled?
What about those moving on from college into the real world, only to be faced with a troubled job market and professional opportunities revoked?
And let’s not forget about your little one who completed pre-school and is moving onto Kindergarten! Was there a drive-by good-bye to the teachers or just a letter sent home thanking you for being a part of their “pre-school family” all those years?
As parents, we might feel more slighted than the kids do, after all they had no expectation of a graduation to begin with!
There are so many different ways schools have gone about trying to make graduation a special event, despite the inability to hold traditional ceremonies.
These students deserve to celebrate, to hug it out or fist bump each other.
They’ve earned the right to don their caps and gowns and strut across the stage only to throw their caps in the air, and they certainly earned the recognition for the hard work they’ve put in over the past however many years.
They’ve been cheated out of many of these pieces and for that, I am sorry.
But this is their reality, and any big moment experienced is worth recording, no matter how it played out.
I hope this is the last generation of graduates who celebrates from a distance, but there is something there that makes them special.
Like rain on a wedding day, no one asks for it, wants it, or is happy about it when it happens.
But it does make it memorable and special in its own way. Capture these moments.
Yes, of course your graduate will remember sitting in the car, waiting for his turn to be called up to walk across the parking lot and collect his diploma.
But, will he remember how he felt?
Or will he remember the masks on everyone’s face instead?
Did he have the earned benefit of feeling proud or rather did he feel nothing but nerves about being around others?
Was he disappointed that he couldn’t high-five his buddies after years of working together?
Or was he just happy for it to be over?
Emotions are part of the experience as a whole, and they are harder to capture.
Take a moment and ask your graduate to create a few minute video describing what it felt like to cross the threshold during a pandemic.
You are likely to be surprised by his answer!
Ask your 5 year-old how they feel about moving onward and upward to Kindergarten – they are less likely to remember how they felt, and less likely to realize their experience is any different from anyone else’s.
When the rain settles, and the wedding is over, the result is the same – a happily married couple who can’t wait to see what the world has in store for them.
The same is for these graduates, and despite these being challenging times, we need to remember to congratulate, honor and celebrate those who have put forth the hard work and achieved success.
Check in on them, ask how they are doing, and encourage them to record their experience.
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