For Poppa

Today I saw a picture in the paper that made me laugh and tear up at the same time. It was a simple shot of two decorated mortar boards from a local college graduation ceremony. The right one said in bright colors, “My other degree is from Hogwarts!” The left one said “Thx Mom & Dad – ZTA.”

My husband laughed and said, “Those could be our girls!” A Harry Potter fan and a Zeta Tau Alpha!

I don’t remember if graduates decorated their mortar boards when I was school age, but by the time our oldest daughter graduated from Whitworth University in Spokane, I became very aware of it. She was excited and perplexed, trying to come up with the perfect thing to represent her sociology degree. Each degree area came up with their own special decor that they all agreed to use.

Shortly before her graduation, her grandfather went in for open heart surgery.

It was to repair a leaky valve in his heart. Open heart surgery always has risks, of course, but he was an amazingly fit and healthy 81-year-old and everyone thought this would just give him a new lease on life. This was a guy with an inexhaustible enthusiasm for life, his family and friends…and GOLF! He was a talented golfer and played nearly every day when he was home. We thought a guy with all that energy and joy would sail through this surgery and be with us for another decade or more!

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

The heart surgery was done, and he was in the process of walking around and coughing the fluid out of his lungs and all seemed to progress well, if slowly, and he even got moved to a rehabilitation facility.

That was when everything started going downhill. He gradually got worse and worse, and when presented with going back on a ventilator, Dad simply said’ “No.”

He was ready to go be with his Lord and the family got a last, magical day with him in hospice where he called everyone who wasn’t there and told them how much he loved them. Then he went to sleep and did not wake up. No more pain and he had done all he wanted to do that day.

Meanwhile, our daughter was taking her finals and preparing for a graduation that she had hoped her grandparents could attend. We had to tell her that they would not, and that Poppa was gone.

It was such a hard time for her, and although there was great joy in coming to the successful end of a four-year journey, it was a bittersweet time for all of us.

The graduating Sociology Majors had chosen simplicity in decorating their mortar boards and our daughter had decided to use the sociology term, “Verstehen”  in her design. “Verstehen refers to understanding the meaning of action from the actor’s point of view. It is “entering into the shoes of the other,” and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations. It also implies that unlike objects in the natural world human actors are not simply the product of the pulls and pushes of external forces. Individuals are seen to create the world by organizing their own understanding of it and giving it meaning. To do research on actors without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is to treat them like objects.”

She had decided to put a large R.A. on her mortar board, as well, since being a Residence Assistant for multiple years at Whitworth had been a highlight of her life.

MortarboardNow she added one more thing.

A filled golf bag with club and ball next to it, and the caption that simply said, “For Poppa.”