Devin and Cody,

We’ve been anticipating May 2020 as the time when our family would celebrate your graduations from college for at least four years, maybe longer. I remember Cody telling us when he was seven that he planned to go to college in New York. We thought he was adorable and imaginative but never thought he’d actually make that happen.

We had planned to gather at our favorite bed and breakfast, Goldsmith’s in Missoula, for three days of ceremonies, feasts and toasts honoring Devin’s graduation from the University of Montana. Just a couple of weeks later we were to jet off to New York City to celebrate Cody’s graduation from NYU at Yankee Stadium. I’m not sure any of us knew what to expect from a graduation of that magnitude but now we will never know.

Graduating during a pandemic could be compared to an episode of one of your Dad’s favorite shows: Guy’s Grocery Games, in which Guy announces a cart switch when the chefs have already chosen the just-right ingredients they need to make their most perfect signature meal. All of a sudden the participants find themselves scrambling to figure out what to make using the unfamiliar ingredients in their new cart. Meanwhile the clock is ticking and their success is on the line!

Before you left for college, we made sure you both knew the basics of living on your own: how to grocery shop, cook, clean a bathroom (well, sort of), do your laundry and manage your money. We thought we had prepared you well for a bright future. But just as you neared graduation, you got a major cart switch!

You were asked to finish the last few months of school remotely, while locked away in your apartments. You would have to get to the finish line without the help of your friends, teacher’s assistants, production studios, labs, and in-person lectures. When you needed it most, you wouldn’t be allowed to go to the gym, meet your friends at a bar or even eat at a restaurant. Some of your professors were understanding but some were overwhelmed and let you know they would not change their expectations in spite of the quarantine.

You could’ve given up. No one would’ve blamed you if you took the semester off to regroup. Pushed back your graduation. Went home.

You did not consider that option… for even a moment. Maybe that’s because your parents live in a one bedroom apartment now! But, I think it was something else. You looked in your new carts and decided to make the best of what you found there. You unpacked resilience, tenacity and your sense of humor and got back to work.

You’re going to graduate without a traditional ceremony, or a big party, fifty different photos of you in your cap and gown (relieved about this, right?), and lots of hugs. What you get instead is the knowledge that you’ve met a challenge that no one predicted. You were blindsided but not sidelined. You didn’t give up. You can cross the finish line with pride. You are probably better prepared for life than the majority of grads who preceded you. Because life is often messy and unpredictable. There are disappointments and unforeseen disasters that happen. But beauty and kindness and love show up when you need them most.

Here’s what I know: dogwood trees, cherry trees, azaleas and tulips bloom in the spring and can make you gasp with the intensity of their colors if you take time to notice them. Double rainbows are rare, like you two, and prove that there must be a Higher Power. Warm chocolate chip cookies can transport you with just one gooey bite. Good music, long walks and a glass of wine can change your perspective and give you the courage to show up even when you’d rather stay in bed. And a good belly laugh with a friend is as magical as a Scooby-doo band-aid used to be for fixing boo-boos when you were little.

You do not need a ceremony, a certificate of honor, multi-colored cords or a cap and gown to prove that you are independent humans, future leaders, kind and generous young men, and responsible community members. You have shown us with your actions in the last two months.

You’ve worked and studied from your apartments; ordered groceries online and had some meals delivered to help support your favorite local restaurants. You’ve used your dining room chairs for weight lifting and done push-ups and sit-ups in the living room. You’ve even found time to take yoga classes from your mom via Zoom. I’m not sure if you got as much from the classes as I got from having you attend, but either way was a win.

As the Grinch might say, “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Graduation, he thought, doesn’t come with a ceremony. What if Graduation, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The world awaits the Class of 2020. You’ve been forged by steel but have soft, caring hearts. Virtual caps off to you, our Sons. We couldn’t be more proud. Love, Mom and Dad