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It was my son’s graduation ceremony today, and I cried. Not for him, he was great, it was a proud moment but not an occasion for manly tears – the event had been planned for months, he has already moved on to a Master’s degree, with (hopefully) another ceremony in the not too distant future.

No, I, and everyone around me cried because of something completely unexpected. We had already been there over an hour, dutifully applauding each fresh graduate as they walked across the stage, shaking hands with the Vice Chancellor and Head of the School. A relentless list of degree titles and alphabetically ordered names from all parts of the world. To be honest, I don’t think any of us were paying close attention until our own offspring appeared.

But then there was an interruption to the normal order. Instead of a dark robed, crimson hooded student at the foot of the stairs up to the stage there were three people in ordinary clothes, holding hands.

The Public Orator paused for breath, then continued “And the next award is given posthumously. The award is being accepted today by his mother, father, and sister”.

As well as our tears, the whole hall applauded our hands raw, for this family and their lost son. I know nothing of the circumstances, I can’t even remember his name but the shock of that totally unexpected event brought home everything that was precious about children.

Here, on this day when they should be celebrating their achievement and looking forward to the rest and the best of their child’s life to come, this family walked with quiet dignity across the stage. Accepting a certificate and a few words from the Vice Chancellor they reminded the rest of us what we truly had, and should be truly thankful for.

So, if there is a next time, and my son walks across the stage in a differently tinted gown maybe I will just cry, knowing what I have, and what others have lost.