We’ve come a long way from where we began.

When it came time to decide how to decorate my graduation cap, I knew it had to be red, white, and blue. I mean, they didn’t call me America for nothing. I wasn’t voted Most Patriotic for nothing. The name on my intramural jersey wasn’t Mercuh for nothing. There was a purpose for it. Just like the reason I chose the University of South Alabama was more than my love for all things red, white, and blue. I started looking for ideas and found this quote from Captain America 2: Winter Soldier that said: “I’m with you til the end of the line.”

I immediately looked over at my little and realized this was perfect.

How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gon’ be with me for the last ride

Of course, I am with her until the end of the line. She is literally going to be sitting beside me today at graduation. When I met her, I had no idea how much she would mean to me. I pray she knows the impact she has had on my world.

I am with all my littles because life would be so bleak without them. They have taught me so much and shown me more kindness than I ever thought possible. They’ve shown more strength than I could ever muster up. I pray they know how courageous and generous they are.

I am with my big because she showed me the kind of woman I could become and protected me and gave me the space I needed to become that woman. I pray she knows how truly amazing she is.

I am with my grandlittles because they are literally my hope and future. I pray they shine like the stars they are.

I am with my friends back home. They’ve been there for me for all the glory days of high school. They’ve been there for all my terrible music choices, my tragic wardrobe malfunctions, bad hair decisions, and so much sass and attitude. They’ve also been patiently waiting for my graduation so I can return to them. They’ve stayed by me even when this kid grew up. I pray they know I always brought little pieces of them here with me.

I am with my beautiful friend from Vincent. She is so like me in so many ways but she has her own little fiery personality too. I cannot wait to come home and hang out with her! I pray that she sees how truly fabulous she is and that our friendship only grows.

I am with my family. My Mema, Papa, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, and Grandpa.  Families are like trees. We spread our branches out everywhere and grow new branches all the time, but we’re all rooted together. I pray we only love each more and I pray they know how thankful I am for them.

I am with my Brother, Sister, Mom and Dad. They’ve supported me every step of the way. They’ve given me a crutch to lean on during times of trouble and given me all that I need to succeed. I pray they know how much I appreciate and love them.

I am with my sorority. That organization became a part of me, a part of the fabric of my being. “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” That phrase changed my life when I went through recruitment. Then those women taught me to “Live with Purpose” and I never looked back. They taught me to make each decision with intention. I pray they keep inspiring women and building them up.

I am with my sisters. Who literally had to pick me up off the floor because I couldn’t handle life any more. Who carried me through the worst and the best days of my life. Who taught me to laugh on the worst days and cry on the best days. Who taught me to love more fully and completely than ever before. I pray they never stop sharing the best and the worst parts of themselves, it’s what helps us grow.

I am with my person. There aren’t even enough words in the dictionary to explain all that she has done for me and taught me. I would never have made it to this day without her. I pray she knows no matter what happens, I will always be her person.

I am with Christopher because my sweet friend has changed my life in more ways than I can even understand. He reminded me of how important the rain is and how to pray. I pray he knows I’m carrying him with me today as I walk across that stage.

It’s been a long day without you, my friend

I am with my grandma. The last time I put on a cap and gown, she was there smiling bigger than anyone in that church. I pray she’s smiling the biggest in Heaven today too.

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again

I am with You, Lord. You created me with a purpose. You created me with a plan. You brought all of these things I pray for into my life. You have made my life so full of light and love and joy. I am in awe of You. I pray that I grow closer to You and worship You more and thank You more.

So, here is the rest of my prayer today. As I say goodbye to the home I created in this place, in this university, and in these people, I pray that I see them all again. I pray they all know how much they mean to me. I pray they know how much I’ve learned from them. I pray they know I’m with them all til the end of the line. I pray that Heaven isn’t so far away today. I pray that the love will never be lost. I pray that I see them again too one day. Thank you for all of this and more. Thank you for college. Thank you for the memories made, for the tears shed, for the laughter, for the things I learned, for sending me here. Thank you for this day. Thank you for these people. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.