The Gift of Closure: Batten Alum Hannah Semmes Reflects on Final Exercises

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

In her graduation poem – read at Sunday’s ceremony – Hannah [Semmes] said maybe she would have taken that last walk around Grounds, gone to that dinner, asked out that boy, gone to that party if she knew we were leaving so soon. When my Nana passed away, I thought about the extra summer I should have spent in North Carolina (who cares about swim team anyway?), the Thanksgiving I should have been at, the family reunion I never would have missed.

And so I had this moment where I realized the pain of loss for the Class of 2020 is real. We did lose. We are grieving. There are so many infinitesimally small moments that contribute to the totality of a life. And we did lose some of those moments. Many of those moments we’ll never get back; they are lost – that time has gone. If our relationships with others and the time we spend with them is what makes life meaningful, then we have lost some of the fragments of meaning from our lives. I never say everything happens for a reason. Because it doesn’t. Bad things, devastating things happened this year. Millions of lives were lost this year. People are sick. There is immense suffering. Many have dealt with depression, crisis and trauma over the last year. Many in our graduating class did. We entered our next phase isolated. Some of us suffered loss; friends and family members became sick, and some died.

And the best we can do is grapple with it, recognize it, embrace it, remember it. If you’ve ever experienced any kind of abrupt loss, then you know it wasn’t fair or just. None of those lives were lost for a greater purpose. It happened and it was messed up. A part of me will always hold the pain of loss and I’ll move through the world with it. But I’ve noticed through my experiences grieving, that over time I started to carry more of the happy memories I made with the person I lost in addition to the pain of losing them. So then I carried both. And then, over time and unnoticed, I started to carry more of the happiness and eventually stopped always carrying the pain.

I write all of this to say that graduation this weekend gave me some happiness to carry with me. The pain for that lost time, lost friendships, the loss of goodbyes, the loss of that party/dinner/brunch/and the boy I never asked out will never totally go away and I wouldn’t want it to. But now I have a bit of happiness to carry in addition to that pain. Graduation gave me some closure, some bright final moments to reflect on. And over time, I expect I’ll carry those more frequently.

Garrett Hall at Sunset

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