How sweet is that?
We were blessed to have several wonderful family members and friends to celebrate the occasion with us, and had a little get-together at our home afterward. Look at this gorgeous cake! (Not sure why these next two pictures look so squashed ... probably because they're from my phone.)
And here was my favorite part about the whole thing. As Bethany was getting ready for graduation, she started digging through old pictures ... looking for a picture of her and Hannah together. Then she came walking by with a scissors and tape in her hand, and I had to ask her what she was doing. She said, "Just wait. You'll see." A few minutes later, she showed me this...
She had taped a picture of her sister and herself inside her mortarboard hat. Nobody else would even know it was there, but we would. It really touched me, because even though Hannah did not have the opportunity to graduate in 2010, it was almost as if she would be receiving her diploma right along with Bethany. And I loved that Bethany thought of that on her own. Made this Mama's heart smile.
I did have a very interesting conversation the morning of graduation at the senior breakfast. Our small district has a tradition of providing the seniors with a final get-together in the form of a breakfast on the morning of graduation. The kids go directly from breakfast to graduation practice, and then after practice, they all hop in their cars (or various other vehicles) and drive circles around the school whooping and hollering and celebrating their impending freedom.
I was visiting with another mom at the breakfast that morning. Her youngest child was graduating that day, and we were talking about our kids' post-graduation plans. I was telling her that Bethany would be working at a Christian camp this summer and would be gone from home a lot. I laughed and told her that would be a good preparation for when she went to college, and that I was fine with it.
She rather ominously shook her head and folded her arms across her chest. Then she said, "Oh, just wait until you have to walk by that empty bedroom every day. You don't realize how much you're going to miss her."
Wait ... What? I couldn't believe what I had just heard. She's talking to me about an empty bedroom?!
Four years ago, when my grief was at its freshest and I was a walking, bleeding wound, I almost certainly would have burst into tears. And then, after I recovered from my hysterical outburst, I'm pretty sure I would have been furious. How dare she say something like that to me?
Thankfully, God has softened my heart over the past few years and has taught me how to extend grace in situations like this (at least most of the time). This mom is a friend of mine, and I know she would never say anything to intentionally hurt me. So instead of totally losing it, I put my hand on her arm, and calmly said, "I know all about empty bedrooms. I walk past one every day. Believe me, this is different." I could see a suddenly horrified expression come over her face as it dawned on her who she was talking to and what she had said.
I quickly assured her that it was okay, and explained further. "You see, even though Bethany's bedroom will be empty, I can pick up my iPhone and text her. If I want to hear her voice, I can call her. If I want to see her face, I can Skype with her. If I want to hold her in my arms, I can drive to Fayetteville to see her, or she can come home for a weekend visit. And her empty bedroom means she is growing up and becoming independent, which is something to celebrate ... not something to be sad about."
Again, I assured her it was okay that she had misspoken, and I think she left there with a new perspective about the empty nest she was about to face.
And actually, she's right, we will soon have two empty bedrooms in our house. And I'm just gonna say, that will be weird.
But here's a promise from Jesus Himself, recorded in John 14:1-3 ... "Let not your hearts be troubled, Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
In my Father's house are many rooms. I know that at least one of those rooms has an occupant who is very precious to me. And as much as I'd like for her to be here in what I consider "her room" with me and her earthly father, I know she is at home with her Heavenly Father. Her place was prepared for her, and now she's there. And even though I miss her terribly, He assures me that my heart need not be troubled ... because He's preparing a place for me, too. One day, our family will be reunited, and there will be no more empty bedrooms.