This week, I began reading Being Mortal by physician-author Atul Gawande. Gawande’s thesis is that our culture and our medical system do not do a very good job helping people as they near the end of life. He illustrates that thesis through individual stories, including those of his ancestors, extended family members, and patients. He, of course, accepts the inevitability and finality of death, but as the subtitle of his book suggests we could do a much better job of focusing on “what matters at the end.” Some deaths add unambiguous tragedy to their finality. Still etched in my heart and in my prayers is the death of a young man who died earlier this week, a victim of a freak and random accident while standing at a bus stop. I did not know the young man, but the accident occurred at an intersection that I pass through to and from school each day. The day of his death I had passed through that intersection a matter of minutes before the tragic accident. As I learned more about the quality of his character, my sadness only deepened. There was no chance to attend to “what matters in the end” for him.
Although far less dramatic than death, endings are also part of school life. These endings are also more ambiguous in many cases. While there is comfort and order in the clear beginnings and endings of school years, there is also some wistfulness in such endings. After next Thursday, we shall never count the same cast of characters in our school community as we have this year. Teachers and students move and depart, and of course some students graduate. Some of this year’s graduates will have spent 10 years at our school, a duration made all the more remarkable in that it represents about 70% of their young lives. They shall never have a school home for that long again (except perhaps in the case of very complicated graduate programs years down the line 🙂 ). So I suspect that there will be mixed feelings in their hearts on graduation day, as will be the case for many of their classmates. There will, of course, be many laughs and smiles that day but also (I suspect) some tears.
So we soon bid farewell to another school year soon, very grateful and likely a bit wistful, firm in the hope that a new beginning will bring in a few short months.
Until next time…