Beginnings and Endings

   Graduation exercises are called “Commencement” for a reason. Exam weary students think of them as the end of a long hard road to a diploma. But commencement is about beginnings, the start of a whole new chapter in life.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to be.

My daughter’s graduation from Raleigh Charter High School, magna cum laude!, was just such a happy occasion. The family gathered, cheered and celebrated in grand style. Glad for her accomplishment, we looked back to a hard fought victory and ahead to her entry to the wide world of dorms, summer jobs and adult-like responsibility.

But this joyful Commencement was punctuated by a truly tragic ending.

One of my daughter’s classmates, Mehdy Hazheer, fell 15 feet the night before graduation and suffered a severe head injury. Instead of giving a Commencement address, as the program stated, he lay unconscious in the neuro-intensive care unit of a local hospital. Sunday afternoon, we got word he had died.

Mehdy will be buried today.

He had been headed to Harvard College. Now, the “Where Are We Going?!” Facebook group says Mehdy will be attending HEAVEN in the fall.

How do you explain to barely 18-year-olds – who live in the immediacy of texting, chatting and Skype same time – that life really can end just this suddenly? In the minds of young people, they are invincible. They have all the time in the world.

Yet, life truly is a vapor; it is possible to be here today and gone tomorrow. In less than a literal New York minute, everything can change.  This is a scary reality even for us seasoned souls. But it is reality; we have to come to terms with it and find a way to keep living with hope.

I cannot imagine the pain this young man’s parents feel, the unspeakable horror of having him snatched away without warning. From all accounts, he was bright, generous and sensitive. A devout Muslim, he wrote a graduation address (read by one of his teachers) laced with reverence and devotion to God, the Beloved.

What good can come of such an awful loss? I am sure I do not know. I am hoping the stark reality of it will prompt his classmates to get their noses out of Facebook long enough to ponder the brevity of life and how best to invest the rest of their own. Maybe they’ll even give some thought to their own eternal destinies.

This is no time for a youthful cynicism of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” And it’s certainly no time to jettison belief in God because no one can fully explain why bad things happen to good people.

Death is part of life in our fallen world. It sucks. It’s not fair. But God is with us in it all. Christians believe that we are accepted in the Beloved Jesus Christ, who is love and life eternal, the Ancient of Days, unchanged through the ages. He is our sure foundation in a shaky world; and He is available to heal our broken hearts.

As Raleigh Charter 2011 graduates march off to elite colleges and gap years in foreign lands, I hope each does so with introspection and a keen awareness that there is an end to all things. May this knowledge cause them to pray:

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

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