Monday, May 10, 2010

A Tribute to Katie!

A Tribute to Katie!

Being that Katie has always marched to her own drummer with her connection to God I guess it really didn’t come as a surprise to me that she had TWO different churches she attended. But I was surprised to hear that I was expected to attend a youth group senior tribute on a certain Friday night in May at the lesser of the two places of Katie’s worship. Come on, Friday night? In my mind Fridays are more suited for end of the week celebrating and not for “churchin”. But I figured this was important to Katie. Her older sister had graduated three years earlier and I have been through the senior celebration extravaganzas before. They usually involve putting aside what you want to do personally and doing what is best to honor your graduating student. I was in and I decided I was doing so without protest.

Katie was not crazy about attending this certain tribute in the first place because she felt it was not appropriate for her to do so. She had not attended the Christian youth group at this church as regularly as her other friends because she preferred her other church. But she was learning the power and the obligation of in-laws, so to speak, and how you end up doing things you don’t want to just because of your connections. Her boyfriend’s mother was in charge of this senior tribute night and she would not hear any part of Katie not attending. Even though Katie had told Laura and I previously that under no certain terms was she was going to attend, it only took a day or two for her to say yes to her boyfriend’s mother.

I was informed that we needed pictures of Katie’s childhood for a slide show. Easy Schmesy, right? I thought so. But Laura informed me that all pictures had to be Okayed by Katie ahead of time. Katie is very self conscience about how she looked at certain ages and I was given orders not to embarrass her. Sheesh! Part of any good tribute should include a bit of a roast or good hearted ribbing like showing compromising photos of one’s youth. Curses…foiled again! So after spending a couple of hours picking out photos of Katie I made sure those pictures got the thumbs up.

But I was told we also needed a written tribute to Katie. This was to be read aloud during the night’s event and it should tell a short testament of her. Right away I knew I wanted to take on this project. During this last year I’ve rediscovered my enjoyment of telling a written story. Knowing that if I did it right it would be something that Katie would remember for years to come. A worthy challenge, for sure, and I was up for it.

So as the three of us walked into the church for this senior event on this night in May I wondered how my words would play out. In my mind we were there for one reason and one reason only. We were there to honor my daughter and the words I prepared needed to convey that message. So as the ceremony began I decided to relax and take it all in. It didn’t take long for me to realize that others were there for the same reason as us. I could see the pride the other parents had for the students and the pride in the students themselves. Both parents and seniors had all taken time to dress for the event. Not something you often see in this ultra casual world we live in today. The organizers of the event had spent the extra effort to decorate the hall like it was a formal affair with flashing lights, glitter, black tablecloths and elaborate centerpieces. The slideshow looked professionally prepared and was projected on the large screen at the front of the room. Each senior was cheered by the crowd as their name precluded their collection of pictures on the giant screen. The Master of Ceremonies then welcomed us and told us the tributes were next. Within minutes, Katie’s name was announced and the three of us stood at our table. We faced each other with the normal nervousness of being in front of 300 strangers. Well, they were strangers to me. Then as the MC began his words we looked at each other and smiled. The words I had written to my daughter were now ready to send the message:

“Dear Katie,

We are both so proud of the woman you have become. Your passion for giving is truly a testament to who are you on the inside. It takes a special person to offer yourself to others in the way you do and we are glad it brings you such joy. Remembering back to when you were just 10 years old, your willingness to give prompted you to raise money so that you and a young friend could buy Christmas stockings for children in shelters. This truly helps to show how you are special.

Your strength in your faith is admirable and it clearly defines you as a person. The personal decisions you have made in leading your life makes us proud each and every day. You are strong and confident.

Katie, this world is yours to explore and we are all better off because you are here with us.

We love you very much,

Dad and Mom”

I saw in Katie’s eyes she was touched by the words. I know I was because my eyes were misty. But anyone that knows me knows I am a sap in situations like this. Our message was given and I was glad that Katie and the audience got to hear how proud we are of her. And I think the words that were read speak for them self.

I am very glad I didn’t say some of the things other parents said. I didn’t say as other parents said that Katie should not be tempted by drugs or alcohol. I didn’t say as other parents said I was happy she was pure. And I didn’t quote scripture as other parent did. To give such a lecture in such a public setting seems like not only such a waste of a message but insulting to your child. The time for big controlling sermons about such topics is long past and should have been delivered years before. What my words did say to her was how her mother and I have always tried talked to her. We talked our heart and we didn’t worry about image. Tonight our only message was to tell our daughter we love her.

The next few weeks will be a whirlwind of graduation events and parties. This time will go fast for Katie as I am sure it will go for us. But I hope that she takes time to stop and enjoy it all and appreciate what has brought her to this point. Her hard work…her good decisions…and her kind heart.

We couldn’t be more proud. We love you Katie!

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