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Week of lasts

2 May 2010

When I woke up this morning to unlock the church, I realized that this begins the “week of lasts”. The “week of lasts” is my term for that last week in a beloved (or hated) place where we are constantly made aware of our “last” time doing something or being somewhere. It’s absurd in a way, because you can never say that you will never do something again; but you are certain that you will never do it again in the way you do it now, because this part of your life is coming to an end and it will not be the same when and if you come back.

So, we count down our last meal at this restaurant, our last trip to this store, our last pee in this toilet. Again, absurdities. It’s not as if it’s the last meal we will ever eat, the last store we will ever go to, the last toilet we will ever pee in.

But caught up in this practice is a very real truth: it’s difficult to leave somewhere that we love. Many adults recently have reassured me that leaving college is one of the hardest leavings. Somewhat relieving that we’re not alone in this feeling.

There is a reason that we call our college alma mater, Latin for “nourishing mother”. It is this place that raises us anew and then sends us into the world. One of my friends recounted a story from her senior year of high school. One of her mother’s friends, sensing some unsaid grief on the part of her mother, said something to the effect of: “The most difficult part of parenting is that, if you do your job right, one day your child will leave you.” My friend then went to connect this to the role of the alma mater; if college has done its job, we will leave it.

So, hail, alma mater! Interestingly enough, UNC’s alma mater has two verses we never sing, but I find them particularly fitting at this point. The whole thing is below:

1. Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and True
Singing Carolina’s praises
Shouting N.C.U.

Hail to the brightest Star of all
Clear its radiance shine
Carolina priceless gem,
Receive all praises thine.

2. ‘Neath the oaks the sons true hearted
Homage pay to thee.
Time worn walls give back their echo,
“Hail to U.N.C.”

3. Though the storms of life assail us,
Still our hearts beat true.
Naught can break the friendships formed at
Dear old N.C.U.

I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred,
And when I die, I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina

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