Inspirational stories, uplifting messages, encouraging quotes, and personalized scriptures come together to give a hug to a special graduate that will impart a warmth that will be felt far beyond graduation day.
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Hugs for GradsStories, Sayings, and Scriptures to Encourage and Inspire
By Jeff Walling
Howard BooksCopyright © 2000 Jeff Walling
All right reserved.
"Dad, I need to tell you
Jean had rehearsed the speech for hours and was determined to get through it
without breaking down. She bit her lip and prepared to plow ahead when the wind
blew the tassel from her mortarboard right in her face, distracting and
frustrating her. Who thought up these stupid tassels anyway? Jean pondered as
she adjusted the cap for the thousandth time. She wasn't much for formality: All
the pomp and circumstance was so overblown. But Dad was big on tradition and
"Don't you see, Jeanie," he had often lectured her; "tradition is what holds
families together. Without it you have no connection between the generations,
nothing to help hold you to what came before."
And her dad definitely wanted her connected: Every family
reunion at the farm in Tennessee meant a mandatory appearance by the West Coast
wing of the McGee clan. Jean's dad and mom had both grown up in that small
Tennessee town, and all her uncles and aunts still lived within a hour's drive
of the family farm. Though her dad still called it "home," he hadn't lived there
since graduating from high school. A scholarship to a big California college was
too good to refuse, so he'd married Jean's mom two days after graduation and
thenmoved to the Sunshine State, where Jean and her little brother had been
born. The rest of the McGees predicted that Jean's family would lose their ties
to Tennessee, but every summer that Jean could remember had included a trip to
the farm and visiting all the relatives. Dad wanted them to know every cousin,
aunt, and uncle by name. "This is your heritage," Dad would say when anyone
complained about trips. "You have to stay connected!"
"Do you miss the farm, Dad?" Jeanie had once asked her father
as they were starting the long drive back to California.
"Wouldn't you?" That was Dad -- answer a question with a question. "I learned to
drive a tractor, bale hay, and ride a horse on that farm. Why I remember when..."
If Jeanie would just sit tight, Dad would roll through one of his stories: The
time Uncle Willie had nailed his brother's hat to the farmhouse floor to teach
him not to be sloppy. Or the day Aunt Mildred nearly blew up the place when the
pressure cooker got too hot while she was canning peaches.
Although Jean had loved listening to those stories as a child, she had no
interest in them now. It was one more sign of the gulf that had come between her
and her dad: Mr. Tradition versus Miss New Age. From burning incense in her room
to a tattoo on her ankle, every issue became an argument. The year she ditched
the family reunion for her boyfriend's rock band's concert had nearly seen her
booted from the house. Only her mom's intercession had spared her from
But then came the graduation thing.
Jean had been adamant: She was not taking part in the ceremonies. Her friends
had applauded her independent thinking. "The cap-and-gown thing is an
unnecessary, outdated custom," they had agreed. But needless to say, her dad saw
it differently and was ready to push the issue. Three weeks before graduation
day, she made her last stand. The announcements were lying on the hall table
waiting to be addressed, and her cap and gown were already hanging in the
closet. She dropped the bomb at dinnertime: "I've decided I am not wearing that
silly cap and gown and going through that lame ceremony," she had casually said
between bites; then she had added defiantly, "And there's nothing you can do
Her dad's ears had gone crimson, and her mother just held her
breath. After a moment of painful silence, Jean's mother picked up her dinner,
nodded to Sammy, Jean's little brother, and quietly left the dining room. Sammy
took his cue and gathered up his plate as well, saying, "I guess nobody will
gripe if I eat in my room tonight." And with that the two combatants were left
alone to duke it out.
Jeanie's dad began with a predictable response: "What do you think this says to
your family?" When she did not respond, he continued, "Your grandmother and all
the folks from back home will be here to see you graduate. It means a lot to
them...and to me. Please, don't be so selfish!"
"Well, it means something to me too. I'm sorry, Dad, but I'm not backing down."
"I suppose you won't want the watch either," he had said softly.
She knew this was coming, but it made her mad that he brought it up so quickly.
"Oh, Dad, don't start with that."
"The watch" was a gold pocket watch. When her paternal
grandfather had graduated from high school, the first McGee to do so, his father
hadn't been able to afford a proper graduation gift, so he gave him a family
heirloom, that pocket watch. That watch had been passed down from generation to
generation for six decades and was always given to the eldest child at his or
her graduation. Jean was the eldest McGee of her generation.
"So if I don't wear the cap and gown, I don't get the watch? Is that it?"
Her dad just shook his head, and that had been the end of the
graduation conversation...until now.
The wind was getting chillier, and the ceremony was only a half-hour away. She
knew if she didn't get this said now, she might never, so she started again.
"Dad, this may seem strange, but I need to say this." She paused and soaked up
the silence. Her father would not interrupt her.
She adjusted the cap one last time and couldn't help but
grin. Here she stood in the goofy cap and gown she'd sworn she'd never wear, all
ready to get her diploma in front of her relatives. But not because her father
had bullied her into it. Far from it. Three days after the dinner argument, her
dad had come to her room at bedtime and offered an olive branch.
"Listen, I'm tired of being mad about this. I know you're a
bright girl and that you'll make your own way. Maybe it's time I let you do so."
And with that, he had laid the pocket watch on her bed and walked out.
The wind blew the tassel across her eyes one more time, but she barely noticed.
The tears she had fought back so fiercely now flowed freely...and she didn't care.
Somehow, she kept talking.
"Dad, I want you to know why I'm doing this. It's not just
because of what happened. I've thought a lot about tradition in the last two
weeks. About staying connected. You never told me that it would become so much
more important when...things were different."
She wiped the tears back and held out the watch.
"I'm going to carry this when I get my diploma. And one day
I'm gonna give it to my child, if I'm lucky enough to have one. And I want to
tell my children to stay connected to their history, their family. I want to
tell them about you...I love you, Daddy. And I'm sorry."
There! She had said it. Those words had burned in her brain
for the last ten days, ever since the phone call about her dad's accident and
the painful meeting with her mother at the hospital. She knew she needed to say
them, but her dad hadn't been able to hear them. The doctors weren't even sure
if he was really alive when the ambulance brought him in: The drunk driver had
hit him head-on.
"Good-bye, Daddy," she said softly as she laid a small piece
of paper on her father's headstone. Then Jean turned from the grave, walked back
to the car, and drove to meet the rest of family at her graduation. A gust of
wind gently spun the paper on the smooth granite, as though an unseen hand was
turning it around to read it: It was her graduation announcement.
Excerpted from Hugs for Grads by Jeff Walling Copyright © 2000 by Jeff Walling. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: Holding On
Chapter Two: Trusting Truth
Chapter Three: Growing through Giving
Chapter Four: Balancing Priorities
Chapter Five: Choosing to Smile
Chapter Six: Letting Go
Chapter Seven: Healing Hurts