Graduation itself was a great day. Maggie could not have participated in the ceremony without the help of both Nurse Janice and Miss Laura who gave up their afternoon to make it work for Maggie. I am so very appreciative.
None of Maggie's classroom peers have gone through graduation. I'm not sure why, but perhaps that was the choice of their families. Perhaps because kids in special ed don't finish school until they're 22 so graduation from 12th grade isn't as important. From now until 22, Maggie will be in "transition" But there is no ceremony or anything at that point. This was the end of 12th grade and the traditional time for graduation and I thought it was very important that Maggie get her day.
There were times that I doubted that decision. I was inconveniencing a lot of people and I had to ask, Was this for me or for her? Was the long, loud ceremony too much to ask of Maggie? Nurse Janice reassured me that Maggie deserved it and we pushed on.
Steve and my mom and I sat in the beautiful auditorium at the school (modern schools cannot compare to the splendor of a building from the 20s). As the students started marching in, I positioned myself to get a picture of Maggie who was somewhere in the middle of the pack. I asked the man next to me to tell me if he saw a wheelchair. I was perfectly positioned for the shot I wanted.
When she appeared at the back of the auditorium I got a little teary. That's to be expected. What I did not expect was the (rather unruly) crowd letting out a huge cheer when they saw Maggie. Maggie LOVED it and just started waving like a Homecoming queen. Same thing happened when they called her name to get her "diploma"*. Huge cheers! Weeping mother.
Of course none of the people in the auditorium know Maggie. They were cheering for the "kid in the wheelchair" but that was fine. As the remaining student processed onto the stage I felt a tap on my shoulder. The man I asked to look out for the wheelchair was there asking if that was my daughter. When I said yes, He gave me a wide smile and said "Congratulations." More weeping.
Maggie was absolutely in her element. I'm glad Maggie had her day and I'm glad I got to be part of it.Oh and that perfect picture? I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I never clicked the camera. Doesn't matter. The memory is permanently burned into my mind.
But here are a few other shots that I didn't include the other day.
Maggie getting her diploma*
*Maggie is not getting a diploma, but a "certificate of completion"