Commencement

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Good snowy morning (it is after midnight as I write this) from Pennsylvania,

Earlier today I participated in the winter commencement event for the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts here at Bloomsburg University, where I serve students as a professor in the English Department and as the director of a professional writing program. All too often we are provided platitudes about how this is a beginning, yes, a commencement, but today I listened to one of my colleagues provide one of the most inspirational addresses I think I have ever been blessed to hear. She asked them what they were going to do with what they had, the foundation they have been provided. She used a great blend of her own story and some thoughts about Sherlock Holmes. It was one of the few times in my life that I believe I heard something worth taking away from the event. Thank you, #Dr. #Marion #Mason. After the service, as is often the case, I had an opportunity to meet some parents, to see some former students and  to think about what they have accomplished, and to imagine what their lives might become. That was part of Dr. Mason’s message . . .  what will the adjectives you use someday be?? She encouraged them to see themselves as more an merely one of the graduates.

This week I have been required to think about that again: where will our lives go? How will we become the person we do? What are the things that will influence our paths and help us understand who we are? What I know is what we often think about ourselves and what others think about us might be quite different. I have had the amazing gift of having a friend in my life since I was four years old. His mother and my mother were close friends; his father and my father were church men together and throughout my childhood, the three kids in their family and the three in my family (of which I was one) did most everything together. I cannot imagine what my childhood might have been without them in it.

Peter, my life-long, and best, friend, and I had the most difficult conversation this week. He has been diagnosed with ALS and it seems quite aggressive. What a terrible thing to hear. He is such an amazing man. He accomplished things that I have only dreamed of. He married his high school sweetheart and they have raised two phenomenally amazing children. I so respect what they have done together. When we talked on the phone this past week, we both cried. As I write this I cannot help again that the tears begin to flow. While I have struggled most of my adult life with Crohn’s and I have had some difficult periods, never have I been given such a terrible diagnosis. I wish I could take this from him. I feel so helpless and incapable at this point. I can only pray that whatever path he is on that he is allowed dignity and a minimum amount of pain. I cannot imagine what he faces, but I wish him comfort and some sense of how amazing he is. I had actually sent him a letter about a year and a quarter ago. I am so glad that I shared how important his friendship was to me.

As I try to finish my grading, I am also preparing a winter term class which actually begins in merely hours. There is so much to do and so little time, but that seems how my life is. The last few days I have found myself turning inward again. All too often I find that I am wanting to be around others and be involved in things, but then I find these times where I would be much happier alone. I am reminded that Lydia would get frustrated with me at times where I was always going or had things going on. She would say, in her Austrian accent, “My-chal! Is their anyone you don’t know?? It’s disgusting!!” Those of you who know her can hear her. I think I want to merely disappear for a while. While I do not think it can happen this week with 19 hours with the Skype interviews and other things at school, and then the holidays, maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution to become a hermit.

Well  . . .  with every ending there is a beginning and that is how the morning started. Thanks for reading.

Michael

One thought on “Commencement

  1. I apologize greatly for your sorrow. I understand what it is like to hear that a loved one has become extremely ill. My Aunt has Lou Gehrig’s disease. I remember when she was diagnosed we did not think she would live to see the next two years. It was an extremely trying time in my family. Luckily God answered our prayers and she is still with us and coming up on her sixth year. Sometimes God has a reason for everything even if it is not clear at first glance. Also, always remember that even though times may be difficult never forget who you influence and what you bring to the earth. Even though it is just the first day of class I can tell you are a very caring person and you go beyond what other professors do for their students. I thank you greatly for this. I also know personally you have brightened my day many times and I am positive that you brighten many other of your student’s days. I look forward to continuing and engulfing myself into this course. I also hope that you decide to not become a hermit for the New Year or many students may begin a search party. Again, thank you for being a compassionate person and an inspirational professor. I wish you the best for the holidays and will keep your friend Peter in my prayers.

    -Denise

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