Saturday, November 28 2020 - 5:03 PM
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Graduating During COVID-19

After experiencing three graduations—high school, baccalaureate and master’s degrees— I’m going to date myself, as this year will be my 50th high school class reunion. I have been thinking about graduating classes during a time of pandemic.

Yesterday the medical resident who gives me some treatments explained that her class graduation will be on the Zoom computer link. The residents will not graduate with their families present to see them receive awards or meet their classmates and instructors. My doctor is not sure where she will practice medicine afterward since life has changed so much.

It’s too dangerous to be a graduating person for this year. I feel sad for all the hard working disappointed people. Our pre-kindergarten grandson will not say goodbye to his friends and teachers in a daycare ceremony. Our great-niece will not graduate eighth grade in a ceremony. I see signs in yards with families who have high school graduates. Those students and university graduates will not be marching down any aisles. And for many graduating students, there will not be “rights of passage” in the form of proms and banquets. No tuxedos, corsages, photos and dances. Perhaps not even a year book or class trip.

Yet graduations are also about one’s culture, personality, and expectations in life. My sometimes-introverted spouse chose to not attend one of his five graduations. I attended public schools until I went to a Christian college. We did not have an eighth grade graduation, so my mother gave me a gift of a hair dryer that year. Neither my brother nor myself attended a prom for our senior high school year due to our religious convictions. My class trip was a day spent on the beach at Lake Michigan, complete with boys dumping as many girls as possible into the chilly water (I refused to cooperate!). My parents invited some friends and family members to our house after the graduation ceremony. I opened presents and cards, ate cake and ice cream. Later we four classmate nerds who would not be partying with others got together at my home for food and memories. I didn’t get a car or a trip to Europe for the summer after high school —I worked for a scholarship.

So what did I miss at the prom? Buying a pretty dress, a special hairdo, wearing a corsage, dancing without knowing how, underage drinking, or staying out until the early morning hours? Others in my generation missed graduations and proms while they were in the military, or volunteering around the world; many did not return. Years ago I felt like there was a gap in my development around proms but in my current decade of life, none of it seems that important. I had some friends, I got into the college of my choice, I found a life mate at college, we have had children, travels and adventures, and more education. Those missed proms or banquets pale in significance from this point of life. The accomplishments that result in a graduation are the sort that are not often lost and usually lead to finding another stage in life.

Difficult and disappointing times call for resilience, and can teach us those skills. Hard transitions might assist us in figuring out our values, trust, and faith. Parties and ceremonies often help us mark passages in life—memorials in time. Some people who miss graduations or proms are creative about inventing their own ceremonies with family or dressing up and dancing in the living room with a friend. Perhaps this year’s classes will try harder in the future to stay in contact with school friends due to their shared losses. And other people may wait years, and then re-enact a prom or banquet with friends who also might have missed those moments.

I want to remember those who are graduating. I am sending a card with a gift to the eighth grader who won’t have a ceremony. I hope all those who are missing graduations this year will discover some very meaningful times with people who love them. Learning and growing do not require a limo and an expensive dress.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV).

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

  1. What is your most compelling memory of a graduation?
  2. What stage of life are you “graduating” to next? How can you best prepare?

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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