It’s been a month since Hunter’s high school graduation and I am finally getting time to share about it. There are many pictures to share and this will be a long post for those family and friends who were not able to travel to join us. Plus, I just want to document the day, event and weekend as much as possible to remember a special time. First, I took very few of these pictures. I don’t take pictures or at least not enough when my schedule is overflowing. Thank you to my friend, Becky for capturing the above hug moment I will cherish forever and many other graduation ceremony moments.
Below pictures are taken by sister, Kirsti and forever friend, Sara. Maybe a few of mine. I’ve lost track.
Graduation was on Saturday, May 28, 2016. On May 25, Hunter was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He was sick. He’s spent a lot of the past month sleeping and resting to recover from it but he really couldn’t the week of graduation! I was diagnosed with strep throat the next morning and then my mom that afternoon. Thank you for rural health providers, pharmacy and modern medicine!
Thank you also to an army of family and friends who made this all possible. Not just the celebration itself but the path Hunter traveled, the journey we’ve had as a family. It’s taken a village to launch this boy into the world. Hunter is who he is because of the many who have molded him. You have prayed for him, cheered him on, held him accountable, pushed him in his faith, academically, athletically and stood by his side through joyous, happy times and sad, heartbreaking times. Many of you were able to join us to celebrate which was a thank you to you as well as a celebration of Hunter and the fellow graduates. My sister came from Colorado and spent a month in North Dakota before and after graduation. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, mom and friend Annie all helped with the food. Aunts, uncles, brothers, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law, cousins, grandparents, forever friends, there was a small army to help us and thank you isn’t enough but I hope you know how much we love and appreciate you. I can’t name you all off or I will miss a name in there!On Thursday night, Hunter traveled with his head track coaches and teammates to the State Track and Field Meet in Bismarck. My parents also went so they could take Hunter to his girlfriend’s graduation and party on Friday night about 45 miles away and allow him a long Friday afternoon nap.
On Saturday morning, he competed in discus. With mono, he was spent. He looked at me and said, “I have nothing in the tank, Mom.” If you know Hunter, this infuriated him. He always wants to compete and if he would have had an average day, he would have placed which was his goal. But he didn’t. As competitive as I am, it didn’t bother me one bit. I was proud. We were there together. It wrapped up an amazing high school athletic career for Hunter that gave him a foundation of life lessons that outweigh the accolades. We QUICKLY traveled home 100 miles for his 3:30 p.m. open house to kick off at our house!No details were missed while we were away at State Track. Team Pinke was in full force getting ready back at our house.I didn’t want any typical graduation decor that screamed “2016” on it. Hunter is an understated guy when it comes to decor. No balloons or streamers. Instead my mom pulled together the wood circles, deer antlers from our farm fields and my sister organized awards Hunter has received through the years. Then she picked fresh lilacs outside both in our yard (hooray for tree row planting eight years ago!) and our neighbor’s yard! And in the above picture, there sits my camera and phone. Good thing others were taking pictures. Kirsti gathered more things from around our house for this corner!Here’s a back view of the building. This is most often used for storage. Team Pinke worked HARD and long this spring to get it cleaned out and it was a perfect grad party location for us, next to our house. Plus Hunter has spent countless hours shooting baskets on his beloved hoop in this building. Many memories! Also you see a video playing in the back corner. My sister created a 40 minute video of pictures of Hunter’s life. It forced my mom and I to dig through a lot of “printed” and digital pictures and Kirsti created a keepsake!I potted all my flowers earlier this year and kept three dozen pots in the building ahead of the grad party, protecting them from our prairie winds. See that new deck? Team Pinke crossed off many “to do list” items this spring. This was all my father in law, Eldon and husband, Nathan. Thank you to our best guys and builders!In afternoon, pre-commencement, Hunter rested and sat at the table welcoming guests with his guestbook.A front entrance view with words of wisdom, gifts and drink station.Our graduation gift to Hunter was a t-shirt quilt. It was created by our friend Kari of Rumpelquiltskin. Kari took bags of t-shirts I had saved and turned into a work of art. Her stitching details are amazing. It’s a treasure and keepsake for Hunter. I will definitely have Kari make more quilts for us!At the center of any family gathering and celebration for us is always really good food. We had a team helping! Here are the cake pops, all homemade by my sister-in-law Dr. Lori. They were in school colors and flavored coconut, chocolate cherry and blue velvet. She made 450 and they were a huge hit!
Niece Nola taste tested all flavors. The dessert table included Norwegian baked goods and citrus cupcakes from my mama and German heritage kuchen from my mother-in-law, Carol. There is nothing Hunter loves more than his grandmas’ cooking and baking!In December, my friend Annie was sharing her Christmas party menus on Facebook. I read them aloud to Nathan as we host a large Christmas party annually. He said “Why don’t you hire her for graduation?”
I am a make my own food kind of gal. But even my home cook, entertaining extraordinaire mama said, “Call your friend, Annie.” So that is what we did! I knew Annie was the only person who could pull together the menu Hunter and I wanted. She also gave us options and was affordable. So if you’re in North Dakota, Morning Joy Farm is your ticket. Plus we buy meat from them like chickens, pork and lamb.
But what did Annie make? She said it was like bringing Philly Cheesesteak to Philadelphia! She brought sausage, knoephla and sauerkraut in our German Russian heritage area of Wishek, North Dakota. If you’re not local you won’t understand maybe how sacred making heritage recipes. There are wanna-be recipes and then there are the tried and true, old time traditionalist recipes. Annie is a German heritage farmer who know those traditional recipes and she lives a couple hours away from us.We knew the food was popular and a big hit when the older ladies of Wishek were asking her about it and said, “This is how it’s suppose to taste!” Annie for the win. I also had two salads planned I was making but when the sicknesses combined with state track came into the week, Annie made those also.
When commencement was over, the celebration at our house continued. Annie had roasters of food hot and ready to go. We went through three 18 quart roasters in 15 minutes. YIKES and still had more to go. It was a foodie success. Thank you Annie for being a special part of our celebration! So many were a part of our day. We don’t have pictures of the 300 or so people that joined us but here are a few favorites Kirsti and Sara sent me.Nephew Hakkon and Uncle Joe. Handsome men and those blue eyes!We definitely have a village who all contribute and help in raising our kids. Here are two important people, our much loved neighbors and friends, Keith and Shelli. When I was in college and then a new home owner, Hunter and I always had roommates, until Nathan and I married ten years ago. Our first roommates were my lifelong and forever friends, Sara and Karla. I cannot write words to describe my love for our friendship but everyone needs at least one loyal, forever friend like these two I have. Sara and I have been friends for 35 years and Karla for 20 years. They are not friends that rotate through your life. They are always there. I am so grateful for loyal friends and family.Speaking of loyal friends, Hunter’s first friends and most loyal cheerleaders include my siblings. I am six, eight and eleven years older than Robbie, Kirsti and Joe. They were kids when I had Hunter and have loved him through all chapters of life. And they’ve loved our family. They are always behind the scenes in our family working together. We are Team Lukens. My mom’s college roommate, Rennae is our Auntie Rennae. Most people do not know she isn’t actually my mom’s sister. We’ve always called her Auntie Rennae and our lives are richer with her and her family in it. She came and stayed our house and helped with every aspect of graduation. I have a great peace of Hunter going to Grand Forks for college because I know he has Auntie Rennae a mile away for a home-cooked meal, a listening ear, a push of encouragement, accountability and she knows her way around UND with years of teaching there and living in Grand Forks.The night before graduation at about 10 p.m. my grandma let me in on a secret over the phone. She was coming to our house. It took a lot of logistics for her to leave my grandpa at the farm and to come with my cousin, Wyatt 165 miles one way to be there for our celebration. It made the whole day so much more special. Thank you Wyatt and Grandma Nola and to my Uncle Jim for staying home with Grandpa who couldn’t make trip. I also think Grandma’s mom, my great-grandmother, Esther, was smiling down from heaven as we used her dining room set in the front of the building for additional seating where my grandma sat.Many family and friends aren’t pictured but here are more of us from the day after graduation when we spent time together at our nearby prairie lake. We are quite the crew.Mama Jane, my mom. Grandpa Fred, my dad. These two have supported Hunter’s life since he was in my young womb and throughout every life chapter. They influenced his character, development and faith and continue to. Between my in-laws, my parents, my grandparents, Nathan’s sister, my siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and this amazing network of friends, our kids are much loved.The only graduation celebration family picture we managed to get happened at 11:30 p.m. on May 28, 2016. Those three kids and the marriage with my husband are my greatest, most challenging and rewarding earthly work and roles. I love them endlessly.
The last aspect of graduation I want to remember is Hunter’s valedictorian address. It was his most important words I have heard him speak publicly. He wrote it a few days ahead of time, had me read through it once and submitted to the high school principal.
But if you know Hunter, you know after that he never practiced it. And then he of course thought of more to add and decided to “wing it.” As he started to speak, I turned on my phone. His throat was very swollen and he was feeling rotten from his mono. My mama heart worried for his voice more than anything. Later he uploaded the speech to his personal Facebook page and you can listen to Be Different here. He told us after graduation, “I think the purpose of me being a valedictorian was to have the platform to deliver that message.”
Most people will never remember a graduation speech. But the ability and strength to Be Different I will always remember. Not just because it was Hunter’s words but because he was willing to bravely and boldly travel a road less followed in high school. He used the graduation ceremony as a way to give back, share his faith in Jesus, show kindness and forgiveness.
If it impacted one person, I think it was a success.
In total, attendees of Wishek High School graduation now have given nearly $1000 to Jacob’s Well, a non-profit our missionary friends, the Cassula’s help create and work at diligently in drought stricken Brazil.
As one local friend said, “If engineering doesn’t work for Hunter, he can become a minister! He delivered a message and collected an offering tonight.”
I think he’s sticking with engineering for now. But God has worked in his life and we are grateful.The graduation, commencement, celebration and all that surrounded it was fun and important for us as a family and for our friends.
Hunter’s high school experience was unique and important in developing him as a person.
But the most important aspect of this life milestone is Hunter will launch into adulthood on his own and is prepared, armored in faith and courage. We will still be here as his parents and family to support him. There will be good times and difficult challenges as life continues. But hearing his Be Different words was God’s way of showing me to be strong, proud and happy for the journey we have traveled with Hunter and excited for the new chapter ahead for him.
This is now the longest blog post of nine years of blogging. And if you’re still here and not my mom, sister or grandma, you are really loyal! Thanks for hanging with us. Thanks for the encouragement, support and love.
Go and be different. Love others. Show kindness and forgiveness.
And tomorrow is Anika’s 7th birthday so look for ANOTHER blog post tomorrow. I know, two days in a row of blogging. It’s a rarity around here right now!