You could tell their stories weren’t garden variety kid fresh out of high school enters university and leaves with a diploma four (or five) years later, ready to take on the globe.

What with their beautiful wrinkles and teary-eyed children, spouses and grandkids, one could feel the weighty power of their individual songs — of the long and winding paths of lives that took unforeseen turns. Some kids and a divorce here. A career opportunity and a good dose of self-questioning there. Plenty of life mourned and rejoiced over. Plenty of shoes tied and hair braided. So many obstacles overcome and cause for stumbling, and yet…this group couldn’t quite shake the dream from their soles.

Sitting in that ballroom, you could feel the swelling pride, chins lifted with what they’d actually done and were doing. Yes, we were in the presence of overcomers, and we shared holy ground. Among the overcomers my own mama, her life song rising with the rest of the gorgeous and motley bunch from a local university that’s home for many returning adult students.

So, you’ve got to hear this: forty-six years after she began college, my mama walked across the platform to receive a piece of paper calligraphed with her name! And we cheered hard. Oh yes, we did.

Not until one of her last term’s classes in which she charted the story of her areas of study over the years (that included journalism, pre-med, oriental medicine/massage, art therapy and photography) did Mama begin to see the art of her own unique journey, untangling the threads through decades. As she worked on this final project, Mama understood the why and how of this piece leading to that one. She saw purpose in the stirring that rang so true in a life season and seemed to fall flat just a few years later when she waited tables or worked in a bank or watched her own daughters graduate college.

She saw why her journey needed to be as it was.

As I sat there, tears running, I considered all the stops and starts and disappointments, all the renewed hope and belief in the unseen that brought her here, and my own soul grew some new feathers for its wings.

And when my girls squeezed and congratulated their beaming grandma after she’d crossed tassel from one side to another, her own mother (my grandma) and me, looking on with shared pride, I thought, It’s possible there’s never been a sight more stirring or sweet.

Linking with Jennifer.

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