Dear High School Senior,
Here it is, the beginning of your last year of high school, your last year in the school that has been your second home since 1st grade, your last year living at home, your last year as a minor, your last year of being a kid with little to no responsibilities. I could go on and on, but that would make both of us sad and ignore what’s really important–that this year of “lasts” should be a year of making lasting memories. This year should also be about looking back and reflecting on your journey through the past so that you can sail safely and securely to a great future.
You probably only have vague recollections of Hurricane Isabel which blew into our lives when you were just three-years-old. It was late September, and we were leaving the following morning for a week-long trip. Our house sits on a piece of high land, so the world looked right when we awoke to a beautiful sunrise that morning. Your father took you and Rebecca down the driveway to cross the street and check on your great-grandparents, but the end of the driveway did not yield to a road, as it should have. Instead, there was rushing water as far as you could see. Daddy got the little rowboat we kept in the backyard, and the three of you made your way to Nan and Pop’s. They were trapped but lucky, for the water went all the way to the top of their porch steps and stopped. After making sure that your aunt was on her way to stay with them, we piled all of our suitcases, our dog, and you three girls into the rowboat and two kayaks and paddled our way out of town. For more than a mile, we steered our way through the flooded roads until we found your Poppy, waiting for us on the other side. I think that was your first lesson in traveling through life. You see, there will be violent storms and rushing water, and your carefully laid plans may be washed away by the floods. You’ll be left with two choices: sit around and wait for the waters to recede, or find a way to paddle your way out of there. How you face the storms and conquer the floods are up to you. Don’t let rough weather get in the way of your plans when you can paddle your way out of the situation at the break of day.
There is a story you’ve heard dozens of times, but it’s one of my favorites. You were four, and you went outside to play in the backyard. I stood at the kitchen window, washing dishes, glancing up every few minutes to see you playing on the swings or in the sandbox. As I was finishing up my task, I saw something whir by the window. When I looked again, there you were–riding your sister’s bike, with no training wheels! I ran out and asked you when you learned to ride, and you said, “Just now.” I asked who taught you, and you said, “Me!” It was my first clue that you were going to be a force to be reckoned with. You were not going to let any obstacle get in your way. No challenge was too large, no goal too lofty. With or without help, you were going to achieve your objective. That has never changed, and I hope it never does. Let your goals shine like beacons, and steer your ship toward them. You will encounter storms and rough seas, and you may need to change course, but you will reach your destination.
Years later, for reasons I still don’t understand, you were not allowed to be in the advanced math class with a small handful of your peers. You were angry and confused, as were your parents, but you had such a great attitude once you realized you couldn’t change the decision. You set out to do your best, prove your abilities, and advance on your own. Taking it upon yourself to take two math courses the following year, you advanced and excelled. Once again, you proved that you could not be held back and that you could do anything you set your mind to. But it didn’t come easily to you. You struggled, you had to push yourself, you even cried at times. But you never gave up. There will be times, over the next five years and beyond, when you will be told you aren’t good enough. You will be held back in some way or another. You will be made to feel inferior. Remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to. Even when there is no wind at your back, I know you will find a way to sail on. As Garth Brooks reminds us,
There’s bound to be rough waters,
And I know I’ll take some falls,
With the good Lord as my captain,
I can make it through them all.
Remember your first big dance? You got all dressed up and curled your hair because you were so hoping a certain boy would ask you to dance, and he didn’t even show up! But you smiled, danced with your friends, and enjoyed yourself. And what a lesson that was! Sometimes in life, people don’t show up–literally and figuratively. Sometimes, you’re left on your own to figure things out, to clean up a mess, or to have a good time. When that happens, you can let yourself feel bad about your situation, or you can smile and dance. Perhaps whomever or whatever wasn’t there for you then will be just the person or thing that comes through when you need them the most later in life.
You are only seventeen, yet I know that you have grieved deeply. You lost Granny when you were in elementary school, and then you lost both Nan and Pop when you were in middle school, leaving your little heart especially broken. Nan and Pop lived across the street from us your entire life, and their passing was hard on you. But harder still was losing your Grandfather, Poppy, this year. I’ve never seen you so sad, but you were never helpless. Instead, you rose to your greatest height in those last few weeks. You took the most painful time in your life and used it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to embrace what time you and your Poppy had left. You so loved him, and it was your love and your strength that propelled you through those dark days and set you on your lifelong course to come. I know that, in every patient you encounter as a nurse, you will see your grandfather, and you will gift your patients with your compassion, your grace, and your love.
High school hasn’t always been easy for you. You’ve struggled with your own doubts and fears, your own insecurities and anxieties, but you’ve found ways to overcome them. You’ve made friends and lost friends, but you’ve discovered whom you can count on without fail. You’ve been left out, let down, and leaned on without reciprocation, but you’ve shouldered the burdens with your head held high and a smile on your face. You’ve learned that life isn’t perfect, that not every person is honest and trustworthy, that adults don’t always make the right decisions, and that the world doesn’t revolve on fairness. But you’ve also learned that these things don’t have to change who you are. You are a person of worth and integrity, a person who doesn’t lie or cheat to get ahead but perseveres and overcomes, a person who is loyal and true. And you are a person of faith, a person who knows that you will face things that “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26).
Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, and rely on your faith. Make this year the best year of your life so far. Take what you have learned, and use the knowledge to continue growing, reaching, believing, and achieving. As this year progresses, continue to learn the ropes, build your ship, set your course, and enjoy the ride. When the time comes for your ship to embark on the vast oceans of life, know that I will be standing on the dock, crying but waving and wishing you luck and prosperity. I will watch, holding my breath, as you hoist your sails, surge on through the storms, navigate the rough seas, look toward Heaven, and follow the stars. You will know the way. Sail on.
I love you, Mom
The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).