A YEAR TO REMEMBER By Lori A Alicea

Senior Year is a milestone year to remember.

A student’s final lap around the track, prepared to cross the finish line and begin a brand new race outside of high school in nine memorable months.

A senior’s calendar should be managed by an event coordinator, as one event will kick off another, an ongoing firework display of moments, milestones and lifelong memories until Graduation Day.

Senior pictures, Homecoming, College visits, Winter Break;
Spring Break, Prom, Sports, Finals, Senior Ditch Day;
Graduation Day, and all those open houses to name a few.

The Class of 2020 would begin their Senior Year with full exciting calendar events just as classes of previous years.

That first semester of 2020 fall sports, homecoming, classes, finals and winter break were all checked off the calendar as planned.

But come the second semester for the Class of 2020, an unforeseen pandemic cold-front would freeze all school events for the remainder of the calendar year.

The numbing effect was chilling.

When the reality of the senior year milestone cancellations began to unthaw in minds of the Class of 2020, hearts sank for what was supposed to be
Their year to remember.

Eighteen years ago my son was entering his senior year of high school, the same year when parents had given birth to the Class of 2020.

The milestone calendar for my son burst of checklists ’till graduation as all the other students of his senior Class of 2002.

The final year of cross country for my son began.
The books were now opened for the first semester classes.
Fall weather that year was beautiful.

That fall my senior high school son began to test his wings to fly.
This final year of school for me was a painful countdown of letting go.

The Class of 2020 was unaware; so was the Class of 2002.
The pandemic affects the Class of 2020;
The Twin Tower attacks the fall year 2001; affects the Class of 2002.

Each was a year to remember.

The ominous clouds of fear, loss, hopelessness, and all the unknowns paralyzed the country and Class of 2002 for months to come.

Unlike the Class of 2020, the Class of 2002 was able to continue with their senior year festivities, albeit with sadness and guilt of going on.

As a mother, I grieve for every student of the Class of 2020
Who were robbed of their
Year to remember.

You’ve waited eighteen years for your final lap around the track of high school memories.

You deserved your Cinderella evening at prom.
You earned your right to compete at state.
You know you could have been valedictorian or salutatorian.

Your mother’s heart is ripped in her inability to witness your walk across the graduation stage.

The “what if’s” and “if only” events of your senior calendar will forever remain unchecked;

Except the
CELEBRATION OF YOU!

Celebrate your accomplishments.
Celebrate your milestones.
CELEBRATE YOU!

The year 2020 wasn’t the end, but the beginning of a brand new race for your senior class.

You are celebrated, Class of 2020.

When my son graduated high school in 2002, I celebrated him that year and his sister five years later with a video montage of their life as a graduation gift to them.

At the end of the video, I, their mother, narrated this mother-to-graduate poem,
Honoring their life and Year to Remember.

I pray that every life, every graduated student of the Class of 2020 walks away just as honored.

THOSE HANDS
By Lori A Alicea

The moment that I saw you first,
I marveled at your hand.
So small you were, God’s miracle,
Too great to understand.

Amazing that your little hand,
It knew just what to do.
Your tiny finger wrapped itself,
Around my finger too.

And as the days began to pass,
You held your building blocks.
Your hands would grab onto my hair,
Your hands would pull your socks.

And oh the games that babies love,
The best was peek a boo.
You’d hide behind your little hands,
And laugh the way you do.

You’d smile for joy with patty cake,
Your happiness it shows.
And better when Miss Piggy counts,
Your fingers and your toes.

Your hands would spill your glass of milk,
What handprints on the wall.
Your hands could not resist the mud,
The trails I cleaned them all.
18 Jake 1You’d hold my hand for everything,
When walking down the street.
You’d hold my hand while in the car,
I’d reach back to your seat.

But as the days began to pass,
You grew into yourself.
I’d try to help, your hand would say,
Oh mom, I do myself.

You soon would want to dress and change,
You struggled with your sleeve.
Though mixed and matched I saw you were,
The door I’d let you leave.

Instead of holding mother’s hand,
You carried your backpack.
Adventure in those books you held,
And lunch inside your sack.

And as the days began to pass,
You’d want to write your name.
You’d want to hold your bike alone,
And sleep alone the same.
CANDY bike

From catching fire flies at night,
From swinging your first bat.
Your hands behold this mother’s love,
Where memories are at.

And as the days began to pass,
What trials then and now.
Your hands, together in a prayer,
Those times would pass somehow.

I wish this day would never pass,
It has to be, won’t cry.
Those hands I hardly recognize,
Are waving me good-by.
31 IMG_20200520_0045The plan, the journey, all prepared,
One season we would share.
The path has forked, you have to take,
One brand new road out there.

Though empty might this mother’s hand,
She truly knows no fear.
While on that path, you’re not alone,
The Father’s hand is near.

30 Graduation Jake Candy

ON WHOSE SHOULDERS WE STAND By Lori A Alicea

A tap on the shoulder changed everything.

Our son was struggling in middle school. But all it took was a tap on the shoulder and a few encouraging words by his running coach to chart a new course for his life’s direction. “Find a new group of friends and watch your running career take off.”

That same son, who was failing in his grades as a freshman, graduated high-school with a GPA this mother could smile about. All because a friend patiently tutored him to success.

jake high school

Fast forward seventeen years as Walter Reed Hospital is about to graduate another class of Army prosthodontists. It’s with a parent’s humility that we applaud not only the dedication and perseverance of our son to achieve such accolades, but we stand in humble appreciation and gratitude at the tower of shoulders upon which he stands– those friends, family, coaches, mentors and pastors who poured into our son’s life along the way.
Article Jake and MajorSir Isaac Newton was once quoted as saying, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

Remembering a parent’s apprehension as our high-school graduate left home for college with a partial running scholarship then the military to climb this Mt. Everest dream of changing smiles as a dentist, a parent always wonders–while never saying it out loud–, “Did our nineteen-year-old dream too big?”

Yet we continued to cheer him on from the sidelines with our ongoing support for our dreamer, while he ran another race and climbed the next difficult mountain of his ambitions.

We can all look over our shoulders and realize the destinies we have arrived at are because of those who ran alongside us, sacrificing their time, patience, finances, wisdom, and the belief that they could make a difference in our life.

May we never stand on graduation day and think we stand alone. In deep humility, may we step aside so that the many shoulders we stand on come into full view and receive the applause and honor so due them.

Before our son adds a new credential to his name, I have reminded him to never forget those that sent care packages, guided, prayed or mentored him through those arduous years in college or deployment.  That their seeds sown into his field become the driving force of his Life’s Mission Statement to forever pay it forward as a seed sower, so that others might be blessed as he has been blessed.
Article Jake and KuwaitAnd to sear into his memory the years of sacrifice his wife and kids have paid to serve with him in the military.  That the medals he received serving on foreign soil be shared as their medals for serving on the front lines of home without him, keeping a light burning in the window until his safe return.

To never take for granted when “country came first” the lonely stretches of time his platoon “holding down the fort” gave while serving with smiles and support, yet with the cost of many nights crying themselves to sleep missing their daddy and husband so terribly.

To never forget and be indebted for a lifetime, to that tower of shoulders upon which he stands, with a bit of wisdom to guide him,

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”-Albert Einstein
cova and Daddy