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Michael Black Graduates Today

You were the golden boy we parents always want. And today is graduation day. We come dressed in black, but we also come to celebrate all that was golden in you. You grew up strong and handsome in a family that loved you well. You were like a modern-day David, full of passion and gifts that …
By Seth Barnes

You were the golden boy we parents always want. And today is graduation day. We come dressed in black, but we also come to celebrate all that was golden in you.

You grew up strong and handsome in a family that loved you well.

You were like a modern-day David, full of passion and gifts that made you a leader and made life simultaneously easy and hard.

Easy, because winning became a habit, an expectation. Life on the gridiron or rugby field was a metaphor that made sense. You prepare, you fight, you accept the injuries along the way, and you play by the rules.

Whatever the contest, the score was in your favor.

You set the standard for your friends. You were the yardstick by which they measured their lives.

Your family loved you well. Your successes prompted their cheers and they were a safe place for you to grow. Their faith inspired your own. Their passion fueled you.

Yet, life was also hard. When winning is a habit, losing is painful. Your high standards didn't make much room for failure.

And when failure came, when friends failed you and you failed yourself, it had to be confusing. Faith is one thing, but where was the modern template for resurrection? When your ship has run aground, how do you plug the leaks and sail again?

You'd seen a nation full of orphans walking the green hills of Swaziland. You'd drawn near their hearts and filled their empty bellies. But who could help you sort the tangle inside your own heart back in America?

The sun had set on Africa and you could feel it setting in your own life.

The disappointment must have been so disorienting. You must have felt the weight of it and struggled to reconcile it with the laughter and smile that others recognized you by.

Was that the war that raged in your soul as you sat on the floor, head between your knees on the last evening of your last day?

What thoughts made lilfe seem unliveable? Why were we who loved you not a help?

The questions we ask link arms with the ones you asked that seemed to have no answer.

We struggle with the claustrophobia of it all as you must have. And there, in that airless place, we feel your exhaustion and despair.

Yet, it is your life that speaks louder than your passing. Your life speaks to us of all the ways in which winning can become a wonderful habit that brings celebration and joy. Where laughter and friendship are the norm.

Where God smiles and anoints.

It was a brief moment on this planet, but it was a brilliant one, one that still generates gratitude with the grief.

All of us sit on a knife's edge of mortality. We all need to learn well the lessons that your life still teaches.

And for that we say thank you. And we give thanks to God for a life as beautiful as a Swazi sunset.

Rest in peace.

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