Notes from Jan

Cowbells and Common Delights

June 20, 2018

Sunshine summoned sunscreen, umbrellas, and hats for family and friends seated outdoors or milling about, awaiting strains of Pomp and Circumstance and sightings of the face they’d come to celebrate.

Graduation time in Kalefornia for Luke, from White Hill Middle school and Lily, Drake High School.

We’d come early, like most, to grab seats on flimsy folding chairs, so we could cluster together, sweat beside folks who’d still remember our names tomorrow and join in cheering, snapping photos of the face that mattered most.

For some, this is the highest education they’ll achieve.  For many, decorated caps announced where they’d be come September.  Lily’s read: Brown.   For all, a day of remembering, time marches on.

Both commencements left me awed by the words of eighth and twelfth  graders, their awareness of the world’s challenges and passionate determination to tackle issues, too many adults and politicians sidestep or muddle.

Lily spoke, poised, witty and wise, referencing an email she’d sent in her freshman year to all parents of the Drake Mountain Biking team about how to cheer. Must’ve worked.  They were state champions the past four years. She challenged parents to cheer, not just for the Drake team, but all riders.

She reminded us, “Ring those cow bells for any one riding by, about to graduate.  None of us got here alone.”  And to her classmates and all seated and sweating under the heat of sun and words added, “Let us all be the reason another made it up the hill.”

Later, family and friends-like-family gathered back at Matt and Heather’s for dinner. Before the meal, Heather asked the matriarchs, Annie Willis (the other grandmother) to read a poem, and I, to offer a prayer.  The momentary ache of neither David’s nor Jud’s presence,  softened in signs of both in children and Grands.

Annie read Mindful  by Mary Oliver.

Every day

I see or hear


that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leave me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light,

It was what I was born for-

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world-

to instruct myself

over and over

in  joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant-

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these-

the untrimmable light

of the world

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

After the silence that follows hallowed words, I prayed but the real blessing held hands around the length of tables, while faces, we long to see, cheered and rang cowbells from heaven’s porch.








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  • Reply Ruth S. Wacome June 20, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    So lovely, Jan. Being the sole grandparent at 2 high school graduations in 2 different states last week, I was touched by your comment about the cowbells and cheers coming from the porch of Heaven. How happy my Doug would have been to celebrate the milestones these kids reached. Thank-you for those precious thoughts.

  • Reply Wendy Lane June 20, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Oh you must have been beaming with delight to hear your Lily speak! I would love to read the whole speech. Sam (our grandson) has just starting talking up a blue-streak – only he knows exactly what he’s saying yet we couldn’t be more proud of him! 🙂 So thankful you could be there for both graduations. Thank you for sharing. <3

  • Reply Eleanor June 20, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Dear Jan, So glad you could attend these graduations. We just have one more graduation from Gordon as Griffin has just finished his first year. We don’t have any Lacross games, basketball, or soccer any more. I have been cleaning the porch today and I found our cowbell which we used to cheer on many children and grandchildren. All our grandchildren are serving the Lord in some way and Griffin wants to be a pastor. What a blessing. Hope you are doing well and enjoying the summerLove, Eleanor

  • Reply Susan McMullen June 21, 2018 at 2:21 am

    congratulations to Luke and Lily. Brown University! She’ll be so much closer and I know how proud you are. Love, Susan

  • Reply Shirley Westrate June 21, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Jan, I’m adopting that final phrase! Right now, two souls so precious to me are getting closer to heaven every day, and I am comforted by the warm image of those already on the porch. .

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