Karisa’s Graduation — Tegan Laughs
[I have not written much in the last couple of months. I felt compelled to write about my cancer experience, but there has been little time for writing. In the two months (1) I made the trip to see Karisa and Tegan the week after my surgery, (2) I have taught all of my classes, attended all faculty/committee meetings, chaired a faculty group that wrote a major proposal to restructure our MA degrees, guided two doctoral students in the final editing of their dissertations and two masters students in the completion of their thesis, (3) I moderated a community forum on the growing influence of crime, gangs, and drugs on our community and families, (4) our basement flooded and has not yet been put back in order, (5) we hosted the church picnic and cook out, and (6) I have worked countless hours clearing up the aftermath of the severe storms.
With hind-sight the series on cancer was missing one major entry. I should have written about my greatest sense of loss during the days of uncertainty. I grieved the image of leaving Cheryl, Alethea, and Karisa, but I was confident I had already made my greatest contributions to their lives. I grieved for not having accomplished more for Christ. But my greatest grief centered on not seeing my grandchildren grow up. I want to be at their weddings and I want to hold their babies. I took some comfort that Camdyn and Charlie would have some memories of me. Leaving me with the greatest grief, that if things followed a negative prognosis, Tegan would have no recollections of me other than possibly those of a frail, dying man. I have so many wonderful memories of Camdyn and Charlie, but I would be cheated of knowing this beautiful gift. That thought was the most unbearable.
Thanks be to God, I have the hope of seeing all three of them grow into adults who know Him and serve Him in the joy of His salvation.]
I just completed one of the best weekends of my life. After a long eight days of regular responsibilities and cleaning up after the severe storms that devastated our property, on Friday I drove to Wheaton for Karisa’s graduation from her Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology degree program. I arrived in time to attend the reception held for her cohort. It is always wonderful to hear professors brag about your child, i.e., “she is one of the, if not “the,” most outstanding students I have ever had, a brilliant researcher and clinician, a superb writer”, etc.. The evening was topped off with getting to hold Tegan who was still a little under the weather from a cold and shots.
The graduation on Saturday was one of the better ones. I was suspicious of the choice of the speaker, Lisa Beamer—widow Todd Beamer, the 9/11 hero--, but she gave one of the best commencement addresses I have ever heard. With virtually no references to the past she challenged the graduates to a life of significance through Christian service.
However, ceremonies fade quickly from memory. The two images of the day that shall linger for the duration were found in the faces of Karisa and Tegan. At the graduation and following Karisa was beaming. She was beautiful; she was happy; and she had an air of contentment. I have told her on a few occasions that she was not the easiest child to parent. By that I mean she parented herself. She was always one step ahead of where I thought she needed to be. She was never a discipline problem. Instead she seemed to pride herself in exploring her possibilities without crossing the line into forbidden territory. Don’t get me wrong, she took great pleasure in running up to the line and planting her toes right on it. As I told her this week-end, I don’t believe I contributed much to her development.
The downside of having a hyper conscientiousness about life is that the seriousness and drive may rob one of the pleasures of just being. This was always my concern for her. She turned sixteen on a mission trip to the jungles of the Amazon. She turned eighteen working with impoverished youth in South America. She turned twenty-one ministering in the slums of Mumbai. She kept us on our knees and proud at the same time. I have no greater joy than to know my children serve the Lord. Seeing them fulfilled, content, and happy runs a close second.
The image that shall remain (with or without digitized pixels) is the one of Karisa in cap and gown holding her deploma and the large bouquet of flowers Johnmark got for her with Johnmark by her side holding Tegan.
During the morning before graduation Karisa commented on how much she was looking forward to hearing Tegan laugh. In the evening after graduation I had a glorious conversation with Tegan. We jabbered to each other. She is the most engaging nine-week old I have held, every bit the equal of Camdyn and Charlie. I told her stories of my childhood and I sang her some old hymns and spiritual songs. Through it all she turned on the charm. Our eyes were locked for the longest time; she smiled and beamed; and she cooed. My neck became stiff from looking down at her and I turned my attention to Karisa, Johnmark, and Cheryl. Each time I glanced down at Tegan she was focused on my face and glowed with contentment. All of a sudden she let out a distinct laugh, her first. The one for which Karisa had been waiting. We all heard it and we all rejoiced.
And so the circle of life rolls on. I am full of joy seeing my baby daughter full of joy seeing her baby full of joy. Karisa will keep her drive to do significant things, but I believe Tegan has taught her the great lesson I could not; sometimes it is enough to just be, to be with the ones you love.