May 14, 2017

What to say Instead of Goodbye at Graduation.

Throwing that crimson, cardboard cap with its golden tassels twisting up into the air seemed surreal.

I had watched that moment go down a million times in movies, but this was live and in person. As much as it felt like life would never duplicate itself, I knew it already had.

But this time was different.

We graduate again and again as we grow. Religious benchmarks like communion, confirmation, or bat and bar mitzvahs ceremonially lift us into new levels in life. We gather and celebrate every time. Our nursery, elementary, and middle schools honor the time we studied within their walls. Yet after all of that, we still see each other later. Few leave. We reconnect and continue growing together.

Then something changes. The moment after I caught my cap and turned to the alphabetically-placed classmate by my side, it hit me: I may never see her again. Ever.

Ouch. It’s no wonder we get emotional at graduations. We weren’t prepared for the clash of clapping and crying. Graduations and goodbyes contrast—one is a personal ceremony of pride and accomplishment, of relief and victory of survival. The other is a severing of ties, a cutting of human connection.

Many religions teach us not to say goodbye at all. Christians believe in resurrection. They prefer “Fare thee well,” “See ya’ later,” or “Go in peace.” Jews say “Shalom,” when parting to offer peace, welfare, or a simple note of completion.

Namaste, which translates to “I bow to the divine in you,” was once only shared by Buddhists and Hindus while folding their hands in prayer position and bowing toward another. These days, it’s written on sidewalk chalkboards at smoothie shops or on the walls in yoga studios. Even kitschy items carry the phrase as a way to profess light, love, truth, or peace.

As graduation invitations sail into mailboxes this season, we reflect upon our own experiences. What would you share if given the chance?

I offer this:

Dear Graduates,
Prepare yourselves by choosing not to say goodbye.
Throw up your caps.
Look at your neighbor and say…
Fare thee well,
Go in Peace,
See ya’

Rock on, Graduates!
We celebrate you.


“Pomp and Circumstance” by Wilf Hoffman

“Time of Your Life” by Green Day

“All Your Favorite Bands” by Dawes

“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan

“Celebration” by Kool & the Gang


Author: Kate Fleming
Image: YouTube
Editor: Nicole Cameron

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