May 23,1980 was my high school graduation day.
After rehearsing for the ceremony, making sure our caps and gowns were pressed and ready-to-go, and generally making a nuisance of ourselves, we retreated to a classmate’s home for a party and some pre-ceremony celebrating.
We were stunned when one of my high school classmates died
By mid-afternoon we were stunned to learn that a classmate had been killed in a car accident that day. He wasn’t someone I knew well, but in our small town we all knew each other by name, had an idea of where other students lived and maybe even knew what car they drove.
Graduation exercises went forward and we recognized his parents when they attended the graduation ceremony that evening. Seeing our classmate’s parents was our last great lesson of high school – they modeled grace in the face of devastation. We held each other in a solidarity we hadn’t known until that day. We learned never to assume that we had endless time in front of us.
Tonight would have been my daughter’s high school graduation ceremony. She is one of the host of students who have been left without a natural conclusion to their senior year. No prom. No big spring break trip. No senior week. No trip across the stage in front of peers and family. “These uncertain times” have given the Class of 2020 some insight into what is usually reserved for those older and more seasoned.
The Class of 2020 now knows nothing can be taken for granted
In short – nothing and no one should ever be taken for granted.
I feel badly for them, but the 40 years since my class experienced our sad day have given me insight into the many disappointments that potentially lay ahead of them. There will be losses of family, friends, jobs, loves and health ahead. Like the invisible virus that exists among us, no one is immune. While tears have been shed over what they are missing, I know others have lost so much more, like weddings or loved ones or the ability to honor a life with a proper funeral.
My hope is that The Class of 2020 will be more resilient. They came into this world in the wake of 9/11 (my daughter was born about 4 weeks before that day), and in their lifetime changes have occurred in our world that were unimaginable 20 years ago. These young people are going to be the ones to innovate, and hopefully find solutions to the issues they confront. Adaptability is a skill that will always serve them well, and a component of their success.
They will need it while their plans evolve in the months ahead.
My wishes for this class
My wish for them is that they not assume they have a right to something others before them have had. I hope they make the most of their time by developing creative solutions to issues in their world. I hope that they are not afraid to fail, or take an unconventional path toward their goals. I hope they fight the urge to divide themselves into ideological camps and they realize that compromise is the only way forward.
They will always be remembered as “The Class.” I would like to think these disappointments will be the worst thing they will face in their lifetime, but we know that won’t be the case. There will be other shocking events that will stand as bookmarks in their lives. Monumental losses are tempered with time, and won’t seem so big when glimpsed in the rearview mirror.
At the very least, they will be face their futures armed with a sense of pragmatism, fellowship and strength.
Good luck to The Class.
More to Read:
Dear High School Seniors and Families: We Are So Sorry
Perfect Graduation Gifts for Girls for 2020 Grads
Cathy Gregory Abram is a former advertising sales manager, now a mom of two in the Atlanta area. She spends her time volunteering, teaching future assistance dogs and writing.