Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Graduation (08/30/04)
TITLE: Graduating Through Death
By Rebekah Bentley
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"She was five foot two with blonde hair, green eyes, and a warm smile. Most of you loved her and she loved you back with an unrivaled loyalty. Some of you teased her, thought she was "weird," or were afraid because she was different - she loved you anyway." Several of my classmates shifted uncomfortably in their seats, others already had visible traces of tears on their cheeks. I smiled and continued.
"Elyssa had Down syndrome. My beautiful twin sister was never smart enough to make it to high school graduation, but she was still wise enough to teach me many valuable lessons. It was from her that I learned to treasure the first blossoms of spring. She taught me that sometimes it's a good thing to just sit in silence, and that there are more stars in the sky than any human can ever count. Elyssa also taught me that graduating is simply moving on to the next stage in life.
"You see, graduation is not a stopping place after twelve years of work, graduation is what happens when we take what we have learned, from any aspect of life, and apply it towards the next step. It is the moving on, the learning and growing, achieving the next and better thing - that is what graduation truly is."
I swallowed hard and took a deep breath, still fighting back the tears.
"Elyssa had Down syndrome. Two years ago we discovered that she also had leukemia. Last week as I was sitting in her hospital room, trying to write the speech I would give today, she told me that she was moving on.
"Graduation is a moving on, the act of stepping into something better." I looked out over the graduates, pausing to meet their gazes as I spoke, imploring them not to forget. "Remember that. Please don't let this be a stopping place."
I sighed and continued.
"For Elyssa there would never be a college dorm, a first job, or even a high school diploma. The only graduation she would know would be to live a more beautiful life, and for someone who found beauty in everything, heaven was the only option. Somehow she knew this." I glanced over at the empty seat beside my parents and let the tears slip down my cheeks.
"Elyssa died yesterday and as I held her cold hand in mind, I held her words in my heart, 'You're going to graduate tomorrow, Elynn, and I'm graduating, too.'"
As I walked back to my seat, silence rang throughout the auditorium. Then, as one, the graduating class of 2004 stood and gave a deafening standing ovation. But it wasn't for me, it was for Elyssa.