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Graduation Day

Our classmate died before graduation. But we received a sign he was there with us.

Jeff was one of the most popular kids in my high school class. He was a soccer and baseball star, a talented artist, an honors student, and “best-dressed senior.” But the list of honors under Jeff’s yearbook picture didn’t convey his real achievement.

At the beginning of senior year, Jeff was diagnosed with cancer. Even as the disease rapidly advanced, he continued to come to school and do all his work.

His goal was to graduate with the rest of us. Classmates brought him notes and assignments when he was out for chemotherapy, and when he lost his hair some of his friends shaved their own heads to show their support. Despite Jeff’s effort, he died just two months short of graduation.

On the night of the ceremony we paid special tribute to our friend Jeff. We filed onto the the football field, each student carrying a balloon. We released them all at once. It was a windy night, and as we took our seats, we watched the balloons rise and scatter quickly.

One white balloon separated from the rest and floated back down to earth. It landed on the grass, right by our chairs. “It’s Jeff,” we whispered. “He’s here with us after all.”

Just as the ceremony was ending, a sudden gust lifted the balloon into the air and sent it soaring.

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