I can hardly believe what I witnessed yesterday afternoon. It was shocking at least to me.
I sat in the audience as my 17-year-old niece and goddaughter Kelly graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School.
The reason I find this hard to believe is because she's only 3 - you know, in my head.
Every time I look at this beautiful young woman, I see the little girl whom I've cherished from the moment she came into my life in 1994. The first grandchild of my side of the immediate family, she was handily the center of our universe ... until those dumb boy babies known as my nephew and son came along for no other reason than to irritate her.
Yep, when I gaze upon her, I see the bundle of fun with the golden Shirley Temple locks who loved train-watching and who would beg "Don't say me!" whenever she wanted you to cease from telling her "no" for any particular reason.
Yet now, we've arrived at a decidedly "yes" moment in time.
Yes, she is grown, and yes, she is moving on. Yes, her entire family is proud of the strong, smart, sweet and sympathetic adult she has become.
So, as she walked across the stage and received her diploma, I could hardly conceive that yes, indeed, Kelly will head off to college in September.
COLLEGE. In September. Again, odd for a toddler but, whatever.
And so, with the knowledge that my little sweet pea going off to pursue her undergraduate degree in a short few months swirling about my gray matter, I tried to put it to good use. "Patty, what words of wisdom can you offer to Kelly?" thought I.
Well, first and foremost, I want to tell her - and all graduating high school seniors - to always remain true to the foundation laid out for you by your parents, grandparents, guardians and / or mentors. Allow yourself to be guided by a good moral compass, and you're sure to be moving in the right direction.
More helpful advice came in the form of some of the finest counsel I've heard yet - which came courtesy of the Most Reverend George V. Murry, bishop of the Youngstown Diocese (which includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties). Bishop Murry also happens to be a former Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, just FYI.
During his address to Kelly's class at their recent baccalaureate Mass, he shared with them some pointers that he wished someone would have given to him at age 18.
"Pick your companions well," he advised, noting that the company you keep has a definitive impact of the accomplishments you will achieve - or not. He offered that Jesus Christ is the best companion anyone might ever select. Agreed.
Bishop Murry also cautioned the kids that the leisure season of their lives has ceased and that the decisions they now make will deeply influence their paths. Also, he reminded them that they will need to answer for their decisions heretofore. "Time is not on your side ... it will go by more quickly than you can realize, so don't waste time on unimportant things and don't take time for granted," he said.
Lastly, he told them to be there. Paraphrasing the book "This I Believe," which is based on a popular NPR series, he told them that their willingness to aid a friend in trouble or need will define their character.
"You don't have to speak to just be there for someone who is hurting. Your presence will speak volumes."
Yes, working hard, managing time well and giving back to family, friends, and strangers alike - these are all ingredients in the recipe of a successful life, which is one well-lived and rooted in service to others regardless of net worth or material acquisitions, BTW.
Oh, and one last bit of advice, Kels, check in with old Aunt Patty. A lot.
Kimerer is a proud aunt and Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her with stories about your fab grad at pkimerer@ zoominternet.net.