Everyone always told me it would go by fast, and now I know for myself what they meant. You have a cap and gown, a diploma, and you have picked a college and await your dorm assignment eagerly. I look at you and I see flashes of the little boy in the man you have become. As you stand above me, I can remember lifting to pick you up.
You have so many qualities I admire. You always see the good in people and never speak ill of anyone. You can be comfortable in any crowd, never worrying about what people think of you.
You endure suffering in patient fashion, never losing your consideration for others. Even as a little boy you didn't want us to worry, and you didn't cry out in anger at pain or raise a fuss over anything you had to go through. I have so many memories of you sick and still finding a way to smile.
I'll never forget a particular scary trip to the emergency room where everything was happening too fast and you were barely breathing. After you were stabilizing and could talk, you said, “I didn't know if I was going to make it this time.” You never once exhibited fear or panic, and I hadn't known until then that you were even aware of how serious your condition was. The last time you were really sick, I remember you coming into my bedroom in the middle of the night and saying, “I'm so sorry to wake you, but . . .”
I envy your capacity to remain calm and never get nervous, exhibited whenever you take a test, debate in a tournament, or when you walked in to apply for your job.
You pursued so many things I knew nothing about—making a board game, drawing comics, making movies. I had no background to guide you, and you just found a way to find what you needed and get it done, whether it was making a green screen out of lime green posterboard or pulling a discarded costume out of the dumpster to add to your props for moviemaking.
You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer. You were never afraid to ask the question, make the cheesy comment, or show up to the Spring Dance in a bird costume.
I loved that we were able to go on college search trips, just the two of us. It was so gratifying to watch you find people who loved the things you did and were passionate about making movies and to realize how much more you could learn and how much more you could make.
Your senior year has brought new joys. We embarked on 100 Days of Dante together, reading Cantos aloud and discussing The Divine Comedy. I was grateful that you chose an interesting senior thesis topic, and I was grateful that we have moved beyond the time when every conversation you tried to have with me was about Minecraft.
I feel some terror at the thought of teaching some difficult math and science concepts to your sisters without you around to help. You always understood things quickly. I lived through Trigonometry worried that you would ask me for help understanding it. You never did, and I realize I might not always get off so easily. I have always told you that you were my guinea pig, powering through the terrible curriculum I will never use again and discovering that perhaps my expectations were a bit high. Your sisters get the benefit of the more experienced homeschooling mom that you did not.
I have spent so much time correcting you and urging you to do better, that maybe I don't tell you enough that I know you have worked hard, and I know you are persistent, and you have the grit to succeed.
Above all the qualities you bring to the world, the one I think it needs most from you is your joy. In a cynical, depressed, anxious age, you exude joy. Your cup is always (at least) half-full, and you help everyone around you feel better on dark days. For years now, I've seen your smile every day and been the recipient of your gratefulness.
I‘ve prayed so many prayers for you for more than 18 years. While I have breath, I won't ever stop. But in just a few months I will wake up in the morning and you will be hours away, hopefully waking up to your alarm on time, making your way to class, and sharing your joy with new beneficiaries.
Happy Graduation Ben! Your dad and I are blessed to have you as our son. Go with God.
Photo credit: First image: iStock. Second image courtesy of author. Third image: Ilia VanDerhoof.