Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Graduation (08/30/04)
TITLE: Twice Promoted: Jason’s Story (Based on a true story)
By Glenn A. Hascall
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The most usual part of the ceremony was that Jason was the only one to graduate. Indeed, his class was much larger than one but this was a ceremony specifically for Jason who would graduate in March instead of May.
His mom stepped forward and suctioned out his mouth as the color of his face belied his embarrassment. The tracheotomy tube allowed for breathing but swallowing was futile. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS - or Lou Gehrig's disease) had taken its toll on the high school senior but this day he would graduate, a diploma would be his and he was grateful.
Jason spotted Chapman in the audience and he remembered being at children’s hospital when the boy came to visit for the first time. While Chapman was much younger than Jason, they developed a fast and fierce friendship. Chapman remembered when Jason could talk. Now the young boy was here to help celebrate with his friend. Jason smiled at his young companion. Chapman grinned from ear to ear.
Money was something Jason’s family had very little of, yet they worked hard to make Jason’s life as positive as possible. An old van had been converted with a hydraulic lift for his wheelchair while friends had gone together to purchase new tires so he could visit a battery of doctors four hours from home.
The oxygen pump kept a steady pace and gave a hint that Jason was breathing. Tears escaped as grand words were spoken by official looking men and a diploma was placed in his lap. Men and women stood and cheered. His mouth curled into a smile as those in attendance saw the futility of trying to keep their own emotions in check.
It was an amazing day and Jason was extremely grateful to everyone for helping to make this graduation so special. If only he could tell them how he felt.
After the ceremony, Jason was wheeled out to the van where he rode the hydraulic lift while his brother locked his wheelchair in place. Then the family began their long ride home.
His brothers and sisters talked about the cake and the reception as well as the boring speeches while mom spoke of the accomplishments he had made. Jason heard everything but could not respond. The diploma rested on his lap and he gazed at the shiny lettering when street lights hit it just right. He imagined running his fingers over the gold embossed letters.
His mind wandered back to childhood days when he ran and played like all the other kids. Being the oldest, he had also been responsible for his siblings until it was clear that something was very wrong with him. He remembered the last time he had spoken with his mom, just moments before they put in his first breathing tube. He gasped for air as he struggled to say, “I -- Love -- You -- Mom!” Then the nurses put in the tube and he was left with a modicum of solace in the knowledge that he had been able to tell the person he loved most just how he felt about her. It was a memory she would hold on to with great tenacity.
Voices continued their conversation but to Jason they were becoming a bit confused, his vision blurred and darkened and then all was quiet for a moment. Suddenly a hand reached out and helped Jason out of his wheelchair. The tracheotomy tube was gone, so was the oxygen and feeding tube. He could walk and in that knowledge he laughed and then stopped as he reached to cover his mouth in surprise. Had that sound actually come from him? What did it mean? Where was he? How had this happened?
“I know you have many questions, Jason,” a soothing voice replied to his unspoken query. “Would it mean something to you if I told you that this is your Graduation Day? Welcome My child, enter into the joy of your Master.”