Today, you graduate from high school.
Wasn’t it just yesterday when we brought you home from the hospital, your surprise birth seven weeks early belying the cool, calm nature you exhibit as you complete this segment of your life?
It seems about 15 minutes ago when the alarm on your baby heart monitor woke us every time you wriggled. Or when you rolled over for the first time when we went to Florida right before your mom went back to work.
Can you remember when I’d pick you up from day care and we’d go play at a park? When your T-ball coach said you were one of the best players on the team? When we’d play hours of “big ball” on our stairs?
Somewhere along the line, we found the primary colors in which we dressed you meant nothing to you since you were colorblind. Since then, you have been quite patient, in my estimation, with folks telling you to “look at that red car” or asking you to “tell me what that green sign says.”
Do you recall your childhood when you declared “I’m not having fun here” to the emergency-room doctor trying to get pencil shavings out of your eye? Or when your mother would bring you to see me at work in the miserable eight months I worked at night and couldn’t see you during the day?
Can you remember when you started school? When you changed schools after fifth grade, having declared you were ready for such a big move? When you started high school, declaring confidently your teachers said they saw more potential than usual in your class?
Now that you’re at this finish line, I recall with pride when you had a tooth pulled and were far braver about it than I was, when you handled a coach’s bad decision better than your mother and me, and when your summer job supervisor told us she wished all her employees were like you.
It’s been quite the whirlwind, your senior year. In the last 12 months, you’ve seen your once-favorite band Muse in concert in Indianapolis, dined on corned beef at Carnegie Deli in New York City, experienced the mystery of Stonehenge in England and quaffed a mug of butter beer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.
Your service to your church and entries from your 2012 Facebook page offer further insights to your character.
“Be strong and of courage,” you posted in January, citing Deuteronomy 31.6, “do not fear or be afraid; for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
In late January, perhaps thinking of the workload in front of you, you posted: “God gives us struggles so that we may overcome them. God gives us the impossible to challenge us. God did all of these through his son so that we might live free. Peace through God.”
Later, in April, you posted a version of Psalm 23, the psalm that would be read earlier this month at your grandmother’s funeral: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He guides me along the right paths for his namesake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Almost two weeks ago, you exhorted your friends: “In this last week of school, finish strong, seniors. All that we have worked so hard for, make these last few days count.”
And, finally, this, earlier this week, to your friends: “The senior class of 2012. You guys have made high school the experience it has been, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. But now, let’s walk that stage.”
I’m proud of you, Patrick, and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...