So the clan has another publicly-proclaimed graduate. Allison Helen Gillen, graduate, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia.
We all attended the The One Hundred and Seventy-Seventh FINAL EXERCISES on The Lawn in Charlottesville on a sunny Sunday, May 21, 2006. Thomas Jefferson determined the basic educational policy for UVA. It has changed very little in the school's 187-year history.
You look happy. You are beautiful. You are in love with a man, one who has a big heart, who studies hard to become a pediatric ER physician. And you are a teacher, birthed from two teachers, so it is right you will soon be guiding young lives in Chesapeake, VA.
Your mother shown so bright that Sunday, enthusiastic for your accomplishment. Your Auntie Peg, despite a stress fracture of the foot, hobbled her way to sit on the stairs of the concrete amphitheatre to cheer your hard work. Your brother and cousins, Uncles Chas and Kev, Aunt Kathy, future in-laws and friends, and mentors were there. You deserve it all.
Besides you, it was your father I watched most. My brother. Sunburned, in khakis, UVA cap on his head. Striped tie, and button.
I have not seen him this happy since you and your brother Matt were born. You came to this world during a massive winter blizzard, when your old man called the AT&T Security folks, the guys with 4-wheel drive, to come help transmit your Mom to the hospital. How, after your birth, he had to hitchhike home in the snow. He didn't mind. And how that cold February evening he called to say, "I have a daughter. Her name is Allison."
And I bet, standing there after the ceremony, arms around you, he put his face close to yours, you in your cap and gown, and said, "I am so proud of you." 'Cause, ya know, that's what his old man said to him on his graduation day. The apple never falls far from the tree.
So, as your crazy old Aunt Mary is apt to do, I wandered about in the short time between graduation and dinner, looking for stuff most people miss.
I found it. It is an engraved stone, sunk into the ground under some trees, so near the intersection where people cross the street to go to Starbucks or buy t-shirts. Most people walk right by. They don't even know it's there.
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
- George Bernard Shaw