Glory Days: Valedictory Speech

Twenty years ago today, I graduated from high school.  And, yes, that makes me feel old.

Graduating from Pembroke Academy was a big deal to me, for reasons that I gave in my very short valedictory speech, but also because I was the third generation of my family to graduate from PA – and the second to graduate with the highest GPA in the class.  I did feel a lot of pride on that day… although, I admit, I also had the sense that, perhaps, I didn’t really deserve to be valedictorian.  After all, I hadn’t even attended classes in the high school, instead, the public school teachers came to my home to teach me, due to my physical disability.  It wasn’t that I didn’t think that I was intelligent – I have quite high self-esteem, so I knew that I was intelligent – but I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunity  to fully test the depth and breadth of my intelligence.  In a way, I almost felt too normal to be valedictorian.

Thankfully, I was not chosen because I was in a wheelchair and seen as “special”.  In my school, it was all about the grades.  So, I did, as I have reminded myself many times, earn the top spot with self-discipline and devoted studying, fueled by my love of learning.  All made possible by an understanding public school faculty and administrators, generously supportive parents, and the mysterious gifts of God.

In commemoration of this glory day of mine, I’m sharing with you my graduation speech.  As you read it, picture a tiny body swallowed up by a white robe, with a graduation cap fitting snugly on her head.  And when you’re done reading, listen for the standing ovation – yup, I got one.  With a body like mine, it doesn’t take much to move people. 🙂

My Valediction to the Glory Days of High School

“Many people have asked me the common question of what I plan to do after today.  The truth is that I haven’t made plans for the future because I never thought that I would have one.  You see, when I was diagnosed with my disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to the age of thirteen.  My parents never thought that I would be a teenager, let alone a high school graduate.  But I always dreamed of graduating.  I even planned on being at the top of my class.

Today is a great day.  For here I am, standing before you, graduating from high school, and realizing my dream.  And all of the challenges that I’ve faced and the obstacles that I’ve hurdled have made today the most satisfying and thrilling day that I have ever known.

Now I have this chance to speak to all of you and I don’t want to give any advice.  I just want to say that, today, we are all victorious.  Whether graduation means fulfilling a dream, accomplishing one of many goals, overcoming obstacles or exceeding expectations, for each of us it is a mark of success.  It is a testament to our perseverance.

The future lies before us, holding different paths for each of us.  For me, the future itself is a wonderful gift.  It is an open place for fulfilling more dreams.

Tomorrow may be an unknown.  But, today, we are being recognized for our commitment to succeed and reminded that we are all worthy of our dreams.”

© 2017 Christina Chase

The Newlyweds

Every story has a beginning.  This is a picture of mine:

parents on their way

Just Married, © 2017 DivineIncarnate.com, All Rights Reserved

My parents, just married, about to head off for their honeymoon and the rest of their lives…

My mother, young, and stylish as always, sits herself in the car, looking up at my father, her sad eyes lit with joy and a sparkling kind of expectation.  My father, looking like a younger, milder Clark Gable, holds the door for her, taking a last gaze at friends in the distance, standing relaxed, proud, and self-assured.  The picture is almost perfect –  except for the dark clouds ahead of them.

This is a picture of my beginning: a relationship of love and hope, full of plans, heading off into what is really the unknown.  Neither of them knew that they were carriers of a debilitating disease, that their future life would consist of taking care of their youngest child as a child for over 40 years.  Inclement weather ahead.

The dark clouds are there, no doubt – but, so is the love and commitment.  The vows that they made that day before God created a marriage, and, through that marriage, I came to be.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, the promises they made to each other have carried them through many storms – carrying me with them.

Mother’s Day is around the corner and Father’s Day won’t be far behind.  Next week, my parents will be celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary.  And, so, it is with much respect, appreciation, and gratitude that I look upon this snapshot of my beginning.  For, I was created in a bond of love and joy, that no dark clouds can overcome.  Thank you, Mom and Dad!

© 2017 Christina Chase

“Who Are You?” Mentor and Memoir

window, portable

Who are you?

This is a question that my mentor, Mr. John D Meehan, asked me in one of a handful of face-to-face conversations that we had.  And when he posed it to me, different answers went through my mind.  All that I could really think of responding with, however, was, “me” – and that with a question mark at the end of it.  I chose not to give an answer out loud, just sat there thinking and waiting for him to continue.  I knew that he would.  He mentioned each of the ways that had flipped through my thoughts, the ways by which most people answered the question: professional identity, national identity, religious affiliation, familial or social association, maybe even a hobby.

But, Mr. Meehan said, none of these go to the heart of your true identity, to who you are.

He said that the truth of who we are is in relationship with Christ, then gave the example of Mary Magdalene.  She didn’t recognize Christ Resurrected, but as soon as he spoke her name, she knew him.  In this, Mr. Meehan was inviting me to find the answer of who I am.  Having been a teacher, I think that he could have spelled it out a bit more plainly to me.  If he had, maybe he would’ve said something like “you are a child of God”… but, then again, perhaps he knew that that answer would not have penetrated into my mind and heart because I had heard it too many times before.  Or, perhaps, he didn’t like that answer either, for the same connotative reasons that would have made me smirk.  I’ll never know now, because, last week, Mr. Meehan died. Continue reading