I wanted to share the speech I gave at Mitchell’s graduation for two reasons: First, many friends and family couldn’t attend the ceremony due to COVID-19. Second, I shared my speech from Lauren’s graduation here three years ago. Why not keep the trend going?
When we started planning this occasion in January, long before the pandemic changed our lives, I didn’t want to speak at all. I felt like I made a fool of myself at Lauren’s graduation. My speech seemed to lack heart – maybe because I’d given it all during the eighteen years I’d raised her? Maybe because I was nervous? I don’t know. I just felt silly. But Mitchell specifically asked me to speak, and seeing as I did do all the work of educating him myself, I felt it would be anti-climactic if I didn’t do it. After it was over, I had the same sinking feeling that I had after Lauren’s speech. I’m pretty sure I made a fool of myself again. Here’s my speech, so you can be the judge. Also, if you’d like to leave a comment for him, I’ll be sure to pass it along! Thank you for visiting me today.
Mitchell’s Graduation, May 22, 2020, Bethel Baptist Church, Lawton, Oklahoma:
The young man with dark, wavy hair sat hunched at his kitchen table, trying to concentrate on some college homework. Suddenly, he heard his dad’s familiar whistle as he came up the sidewalk on his way home from work. The man at the table jumped up, went for the screen door, and pushed it open. He expected to see his dad coming up the porch steps on that warm autumn afternoon. Instead, there was only the sound of the wind blowing the dead leaves around the front yard. No dad. No whistling. Then he remembered, he was gone. Forever. It had been two weeks already. How had he forgotten?
Two weeks quickly became two years, then twenty. The memories of his father would linger for his lifetime. They would be so vivid, that, as we see in this example, that they seemed real. He would share these memories over and over with his youngest child, his eyes glistening with tears some thirty years after his dad had died.
My dad was the young man in that story, and I am his youngest child. As a ten-year-old girl, I was convinced that I could take away the sorrow my dad felt. I thought I could fill the void and make him smile. And, I think I did help… a little. But in the years since, I’ve learned the hard way that no one can fill the void that someone you love leaves behind. But, Mitchell, as I sat on the edge of the bed, feeling the waves of grief wash over me as I mourned the sudden death of my own “whistler”, my dad, you tried to bring comfort to my loneliness and sorrow. As a brand new two-year-old, you couldn’t talk, but you spoke nonetheless. You toddled over to where your dad kept his handkerchiefs, you opened the drawer, got one out and handed it to me. I was stunned. I said thank you through my tears, but you kept right on your way, as though you hadn’t just done something remarkable.
You did learn to talk, and as you grew, so did your volume. You started whistling – loudly. But I had a hard time complaining about it because I knew you wouldn’t live with me forever. One day, your whistling would be a memory, just like the one my dad shared with me. I decided not to be upset (but I did tell you to do it quieter!) Then you switched from whistling, to singing! Loudly.
And you always talked a lot. You bubbled over with interesting, little-known facts. You taught me a little about Opera, and a lot about Kristin Chenoweth, your favorite singer and Oklahoman. You introduced me to music such as “Fight Song”, “For Good”, “The Climb”, and more. Now, whenever those songs start playing in a store, or if I hear someone whistle, I can’t help but think of you.
People cautioned me that you would lose your joy, zest, and spirit as you became a teenager, but I’m happy they were wrong. Even today, you still happily share interesting facts that you glean from podcasts, or you begin playing a Broadway musical score on the piano. Loudly. But now, you not only brighten my days, but also the days of customers who need caffeine to start their day. Your smiling face is a bonus to help them along life’s way as you live the dream of being a barista!
I have no inspiring words to give you today on this great occasion. But, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a great British physician and preacher who died in 1981, said this to believers, and I think it is excellent advice:
“You are not an ordinary person! You are a Christian, you are born again, the Spirit of God is in you. But you are facing all these things in life as if you are still what you once were, an ordinary person…Go forward, He will be with you. You won’t know yourself; you will be amazed at yourself. So talk to yourself about this eternal, amazing love of God – the God Who ever looked upon us in spite of sin and planned the way of redemption and spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all.”
I would like to add that this is the God I serve, and the God of your father, your grandfathers, and your grandmothers. May you follow Him, and through Him, may you continue to do great things.
Thankful for our graduate!
Mitchell with Terry’s parents, Terry Sr. and Kathy Basham
My sister, Melanie, and her husband, Walter, with our graduate! So thankful they could come from NC to be with us.
My mom, Carolyn Courtney, with Mitchell
Mitchell with his “at home” siblings, Matt, Leslie, and Laci.
Mitchell with his great-grandma, Betty Basham.
He did it!
A literal sign of the times!
Mitchell’s senior table, which we set up at church.
Close-ups of his photos.