Class of 2016

Dan and I attended graduation yesterday for the class of 2016 and it was just as I imagined it would be... touching and heart wrenching at the same time... her chair sat empty with a single yellow rose laid upon it...

The class president's speech was titled "Screenshot the Little Moments". He reminded his classmates to not just look to the future, but to remember the here and now, this moment, and all the little moments that move you ahead in life. He shared with his class that this was a lesson he learned from Shannon...

He spoke about being Shannon's friend in 7th grade and how she was upset about the acne that her cancer treatment was giving her. He remembered that she told him "It could be so much worse..."

Dan and I sitting in the audience cried and smiled as Shannon's classmate captured her essence - she appreciated each and every moment she got, even when she knew her future would not be long.

I can picture Shannon and her excitement when it all began. We have the video of smiling, bright-eyed Shannon jumping up and down on the way to the bus stop saying "First day of school! First day of school!"

I am feeling some closure today as I look back on these kids and their journey from kindergarten to graduation. We had hugs and tears with Shannon's friends after graduation. I felt her there with us, through the eyes and souls of these kids.

Dan and I had the opportunity to speak to the class at their graduation practice. What I really wanted to say to them, was thank you:

To the class of 2016, first off, congratulations. I remember the day you started kindergarten, and I’ve watched you grow and struggle and earn your way to this momentous occasion.

Secondly, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for remembering Shannon. Thank you for supporting the Shannon O’Hara Foundation. It was a lovely tribute that was included in the yearbook.

Thank you also for including us in your lives in these last 4 years since Shannon passed away. So many of you were quick with a smile every time you saw us. You stopped to say hi, even if you didn’t know what else to say. You showed us compassion, a trait that reminded us of Shannon. Remember that compassion. It will serve you well. It was easy to be compassionate to us - you knew our story. But, as you go forward, remember that people are fighting battles all the time. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

For those who knew Shannon, when we hear your names called and you walk across the stage, we will remember a Shannon memory with you. Whether it’s from Bamber Valley, Willow Creek, or youth soccer or hockey, I have memories of so many of you. And they’re good memories for me, because they make me think of Shannon.

As you go forward into the working world or on to school, I hope you carry a bit of Shannon’s legacy with you. Be kind. Be a good teammate. Laugh. Persevere.

In the end, people will remember you not for what you achieved, but for the kind of person you were. Shannon didn’t get to reach this graduation day, but a little piece of her is here in your memories. For that, I am grateful.

I will leave you with my favorite quote that I feel describes not only Shannon, but those of you who have helped me, Dan and Erin through the past four years.

It comes from the poet Maya Angelou: 

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We will never forget how you made us feel. Thank you for letting us be a part of the class of 2016.