Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Letter to My Graduating Son and His Damn Wings...

My Boy, My Joy,

13 years ago I watched you walk into Kindergarten without a glance back.  My heart broke into a million pieces.  The wings I had so carefully crafted to your back during those early years, had worked...too well.  I wanted, at that moment, to snatch those wings from your back and throw them away.  This morning I feel the exact same way and it hit me that I am so proud of who you are.  Who we have helped you to become.  I thought about those damn wings and each of the feathers we placed on them in preparation for this day and as much as I hate to admit, I am proud of every stinking feather.  

I crafted these damn things.  I made sure to add extra feathers for protection.  I prayed over every single one.  I asked God to protect you, guide you and lead you as you soar.  Of all things that I prayed to give you, I really wanted you to receive faith and hope.  I wanted you to know how God has walked with you throughout your life.  But, I also tried to sneak in some other feathers that I am pretty proud of. I hope you recognize the gifts of creativity, kindness, compassion, integrity and leadership that I tried so hard to pour over you.  My wish is that, even though I don't like these wings today, my part of these wings help give you flight throughout your life.

Your dad gave you some beautiful feathers along the way.  Passion for everything you attempt to do.  Courage to follow your dreams and to never let obstacles stand in your way.  I will concede that he was the one who gave you the almighty gift of music.  Music that has become the most important passion in your life. He has also taught you joy.  Living life with laughter and lots of love.  He showed you what matters most in life.  Love is truly ALL that you need.  Love for your family, your friends and all who you will come in contact with.  He has truly given you guidance which will become the wind beneath your wings.

Your siblings have given you so much as well.  I hope you will recognize their gifts to you.  Emma- your dodo.  That girl loves you and idolizes you.  I know you see this and are grateful for this.  She has helped to give you purpose.  You know that the life you lead will be an example to her.  Kiley has given you confidence and knowledge.  Confidence in speaking up for yourself and knowledge that the things you say and do have great affect on others.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  Keegan has given you a great amount of patience and understanding.  Through his struggles, you have learned to be there... no matter what.  Family never gives up.  Family is a great healer.  Dylan, technically, gave you your first brother.  This bond has shown you what pride is.  And, then there was Lucy.  Lucy gave you feathers of responsibility.  She helped show you that you have a responsibility to others to bring them closer to God through your actions.  These are the things they have given you to help you on your journey.  Know they will be watching you and your flight will give them valuable insight into what becoming a man looks like.

You have a beautiful family.  Family that has celebrated you for the last 18 years.  They have walked with you and cheered you on, in big and little ways.  Great Grandparents who have given wisdom and insight into your heritage. Even as they look down on you from heaven, they are still so proud of you.  I can still see each of them as they held you for the first time.. Their first great grandson.  You could do no wrong in their eyes.  You are their legacy. 

Your Grandparents have given you feathers too.  They have taught you the meaning of family, faith and hardwork.  In order to BE family you must BE family.  Spending time with people important to you is the greatest gift you can give.  The countless trips to visit you as you celebrated a milestone showed you the commitment it takes to create a family bond.  Working for your grandparents and seeing all of the time and effort they put into making a future to benefit you.  This sense of purpose and commitment to family will truly prepare you as you become an adult and decide how to prioritize things in your life.

So many Aunts and Uncles.  You were their first nephew.  This was a gift you will never fully understand.  They held you when you were born, rocked you to sleep, taught you your first tricks and celebrated every single milestone as if you were their own child.  And then they filled your life with MANY, MANY cousins.  All of whom stand by and watch you take flight.  Your every move will be watched by them.  You will lead them towards success.  This is a great responsibility and based on the feathers in your wings, you got this. 

How lucky in life you have been to have been given such an awesome family!  We know all too well what happens when your wings are not built with love.  Never forget you have been blessed with a life FULL of love.  Sometimes that love must have seemed suffocating.  I hope you see how that love has been transforming.  You have custom made wings.  Wings crafted by not just your parents.  I sit here this morning after watching you leave for the last day of school and I am filled with gratitude to everyone in our extended family.  People that did not HAVE to be there.  People that chose too. 

Our Church family.  People who have really become a part of the fabric of our lives.  They have given us such great examples of how to live a good life.  I am seeing in my minds eye the pews filled with faces who have silently watched you grow into the man you are.  Some have given you the gifts of music and praise {shout out Leny and choir} some have given you the gift of living your faith out loud {Paul and Ann, SPC CCD/CYO, Mama Nita and Deacon James} and of course, our Father Norman who has shown you that you can live your faith with great JOY!

All of the teachers, administrators and counselors who have touched your life.  People who were like second moms and dads to you.  They taught you everything you needed to know.  Not just facts and figures.  They taught you how to be a really GOOD person.  There are some teachers that you will never forget.  These teachers have given you much more than what the state curriculum forces them to do.  Only you will know what feathers they have added.  But, it is my greatest hope that you have shared your gratitude for how they have helped to raise you.

Shawn, you have found some amazing friends.  These friends have amazing families who have become our friends.  I truly could not have picked better people for you to fly with. I look at what they have given and am so thankful that they have helped us to fill in those feathers.  Happiness, confidence, goofiness, focus, drive, determination... just to name a few.  Your friends can not be mentioned without the gigantic feathers of Johnny Conqueroo and all the life lessons you have learned from being in this band.  Some of these lessons gave you humility but most of them have shown you that hardwork pays off and if you are creative, you will never know a day of boredom.

You know the last few weeks I have been listening to horribly sad and tragic goodbye songs {Spotify playlist attached for my readers to listen to and cry with}  You laugh at me for this and call me melodramatic.  But, this IS a goodbye. 

This is the day the world recognizes that you are ready to fly from our nest.  We know that, much like Kindergarten, you will not look back and you will fly higher than we could have ever imagined.  I know you will be back to visit, probably eat some meals and ask me to do your laundry. I know we have the whole summer to spend together.  And, we will.  We will soak up every last moment before everything truly changes.

But, today we celebrate you and those damn wings that we created.  Wings that are ready for flight.  They are full of the love of people who have come and gone in your life.  Each person has made you who you were meant to be and given you some feathers to help you along the way.  As you walk across the stage and accept this diploma, know that you are who you are because of who they were to you.  You are ready to fly!

P.S. I can still curse those damn wings today... and I will.  But just for a little bit.  Mostly, I will be proud.  So unbelievably proud.   I will be watching you fly and as tears flow down my face, I will forever be cheering you on.

To watch our "Ode to Shawnie" Graduation video...

To listen to my sappy, sad songs that helped prepare me for this day...