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Rev. Dr. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder Headshot

The Grace in Saying Good-Bye

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It is that time of year. Commencements abound. Ceremonies where students bid farewell to their peers and professors are the order of the day. From Pre-K hooding services to those pertaining to honorary degrees, no one escapes this season of beginning, new beginnings and beginning again. This is the time of "commencement."

Although the season is filled with gowns, caps, and hoods, it is also replete with speeches of starting anew. This period is a time of transition as students move physically from dorm rooms, move economically into the world of student loans and move professionally into first jobs or graduate school. Commencements speak to all of us about life's transitory state. People everywhere are losing jobs or getting new jobs. Friends are losing homes or finding new residences. Colleagues are finding mates or separating from long-time loves. Whether we will attend a graduation this year or not, we can connect to "interim" living. We can comprehend "meanwhile" existence. Life is indeed a constant state of flux.

Commencements signal that something has come to an end. Yet, before something ends, it behooves us to reflect on that which will close. Graduations call us to look forward to what lies ahead, while also compelling us to examine what is behind. The conundrum of commencement is that we are to see ahead and behind at the same time. We must look to the future while recalling the past.

It does not matter whether one is graduating or not. Moments in our life encourage us to examine previous relationships and experiences in order to ascertain lessons learned. Yet, at the same time, we must plan and project future possibilities, perchance as a means of connecting that which was to that which is to be. The Sankofa bird is a visual symbol of this. Legend has it that this bird flies forward while looking backwards with an egg in its mouth. It moves with the present as its eye is on the past while holding to the promise and hope of the future.

This season of graduation reminds us that reexamining the past is necessary for us to begin afresh. Like the Sankofa bird, there is something productive about using the past to propel us forward. On the contrary, we dare not rest in what has already happened. No need to stay stuck on stupid. I think commencements teach us that we must graciously bid farewell to the former. Perhaps there have been wonderful people and events that we celebrate; thus, they are due such an warm adieu. Even persons who were the source of harm, and events that now prick our hearts still deserve a kind adios. The good and bad alike all shape who and what we have become today. Strangely enough, both beauty and beast have had a role in what we are to be in the future.

Graduations, with all of their pomp and circumstance, in an uncanny way provide a forum for humility and care-filled meditation. They teach us the importance of reconfiguring life, of starting over, and going to the next level. We look behind to look ahead. We say good-bye with grace knowing that the former and the future journey hand-in-hand.