We’ll Remember Always, Graduation Day

There’s a time for joy
A time for tears
A time we’ll treasure through the years

We’ll remember always Graduation day


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The Mizutanis — Haven, Tai-John, Dane, Michelle and Ron — celebrate Haven’s graduation day | Photos from Ron Mizutani

The Four Freshmen sang about Graduation Day in 1956, and the Beach Boys did it again in 1964.

Graduation day is a special time in everyone’s life. It’s a day of joy and tears, nostalgia and the sharing of childhood memories. It’s a time when we, as parents, reflect on our children’s growth and embrace the memories we’ve made with them. It is also a time we celebrate their triumphs and failures, and ultimately, it’s a day we must “let go.”

Like the song says, “We’ll remember always, Graduation day.”

I’ll never forget this year’s graduation season, for 2014 was a special year for our family with not one, but two ceremonies. Our oldest son Dane graduated from the University of Minnesota May 17 with a journalism degree. Eight days later, our daughter Haven graduated from Kamehameha Schools. They were two of the proudest moments of my life.

As I sat in the Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus and watched the Class of 2014 take their seats, I found myself going back four years to 2010.

Dane was an anxious and ambitious 18-year-old freshman who was eager to be on his own, ready to take on the world. I remember standing in the parking lot with tears flowing down my cheeks, feeling helpless as he disappeared into his dormitory. Minneapolis is a long way from Hawaii, and as I drove off campus and headed back to Chicago, it felt like I had left a part of my heart behind.

Letting go was not easy and it hurt something fierce.

“Dane Mizutani,” said the public announcer. I was jolted out of my trance just in time to see him confidently walking across the stage. The moment hit me like a sledgehammer. Four years had gone by so quickly. My son was now a grown man and a college graduate.

This time the tears were tears of joy, not sadness.

But the tears were just getting started, and so were the celebrations. A week later, I found myself sitting in a daze once again, lost in another sweet memory. My mind raced back 13 years to the morning I drove my daughter to school for her first day at Kamehameha. Kindergarten is scary for any 5-year-old, especially with so many unfamiliar faces. I could still see her precious little trembling hand reaching for comfort. I held it tightly and wiped away her tears that were flowing like a river.

“Please don’t go, Daddy,” she said quietly. But I knew I had to … let go.

“Haven Grace Anuheaokalani Mizutani,” says a teacher on stage. I blinked and there she was, dressed in a gorgeous white dress, standing tall and confident. She walked across the stage with grace to receive her diploma. Daddy’s little girl was now a beautiful woman and a high school graduate.

Though we leave in sorrow

All the joys we’ve known
We can face tomorrow
Knowing we’ll never walk alone

When the ivy walls
Are far behind
No matter where our paths may wind

We’ll remember always Graduation day
We’ll remember always Graduation day

Graduation day is a rite of passage like no other. It is a moment when a child takes that first real step toward independence and adulthood, and a time when parents must let that happen.

And to think, I get to do this all over again in four years when Haven graduates from college and my youngest son graduates from Iolani School.

Letting go is never easy — but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.