Sunday afternoon (1 June) I attended the Baccalaureate Service for the Class of 2008 of Alamo Heights High School. As with the other two times I attended, it was in the beautiful sanctuary of Alamo Heights UMC. And the pews were FULL -- of Seniors front & center, of families, of faculty and staff.
This time we also were treated to a special "graduate" who was present to give the Baccalaureate speech. You see, Dr. Jerry Christian, just-retired Superintendent of AHISD (see my post of May), began his time as "Number One Mule" when this class began kindergarten. And here he was, thirteen years later, leaving the school system at the same time as they (if for a slightly different reason and a different goal)!
Before "Dr. C", as he's affectionately known in the district, began his speech we were treated to some beautiful music. Prelude music was by organ and trumpet; these continued during the Processional of the Seniors into the sanctuary. This processional piece was "Rondeau" by Mouret, which contains rousing trumpet phrases. The entire congregation stood to sing the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" which is set to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". Following the Invocation and a Scripture reading, the Girls Choir of AHHS treated us to "I Will Lift Up My Voice". This piece had a special interest for me: during two days of sub-teaching for choir teacher/director Angus McLeod a couple months ago I had been blessed to listen to the young ladies practice this piece, among others. They had sounded sweet in practice, and today sounded even sweeter singing it in the church! Then just before the "Message to Graduates" by "Dr. C", a young lady, accompanied by a young man with guitar and refrain harmony, sang "I Hope You Dance". This song, a great country music hit by Lee Ann Womack, has such appropriate lyrics for the significant rite of passage that is high school graduation!
And yes, my head started to leak. For the second time. The first was when the seniors processed in to those stirring trumpet notes of "Rondeau" by Mouret. You know, dear reader, I think it's not good for me to attend these AHHS baccalaureates! The first time I was here was okay. But last year as the Class of '07 processed in, it came to me that I'd started my sub-teaching at their school halfway thru their Freshman year, and thus I witnessed their mental and emotional growth as they acquired classroom knowledge! I was torn between sharing their happiness at their special occasion, wishing them well in their future plans, and sorrowing that I'd get to see few if any of them ever again.
And this time, if anything, the intensity of emotional conflict was greater, because I'd seen the Class of '08 since almost the first day they began their four years of high school! In a way it was harder on me than when my own two flesh-and-blood graduated from their high schools: THEN I'd had intense feelings for just one graduate at a time -- and this time it was for hundreds all at once!
And then we heard the "Message to Graduates". Our retiring Superintendent "Dr. C" did a fine job inspiring and exhorting them. Of course he made note right at the start, of that special connection he had with them, by commencing his formal association with the District when they did and by now retiring even as they were about to receive their diplomas. He shared an anecdote from a visit he'd paid years ago to a kindergarten classroom; later he reflected back on this incident, and commented how precious kindergartners are, "for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!" Wow! did I appreciate his citing of our Savior's teaching!
Afterward I told him that since he shared three points in the message (not to mention also its spiritual content), he would make a great preacher! He agreed with a smile, that indeed he'd made three major points. And then all of us made our way to the AHUMC's Christian Life Center (a combo fellowship hall and gym) for tasty refreshments.
I personally congratulated several of the Seniors about their high school graduation. One beautiful young coed told me that she was planning to attend Vanderbilt University. I cheered, and then shared how I received a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from that venerable institution. I also warned her to "get ready to live in the Library!" Ha, ha! And I know that several of the AHHS Class of '08 will be attending TCU, the Texas institution of higher learning where I've also done graduate studies.
But. . . for the next couple of days they can focus on celebrating their graduation from high school. And yours truly can deal with my emotions at their passage away from me and AHHS and into the future. And pray for their success and for blessings on their future!