Tonight I experienced one of my last traditions as an undergrad, and I hope that I will never have to do it again. This may sound ridiculous — all who know me are aware of how intense of an Aggie I am — but this particular ritual is something I pray to leave in the past. Not because I dislike or undervalue it; on the contrary, this is arguably my favorite tradition at Texas A&M. But participating in this observance, Silver Taps, after graduation means I will have lost a loved one while they are attending school. I must say, this realization really caught me off guard.
Tonight began not unlike any other first Tuesday of the month (when Silver Taps is observed). I walked in silence with my peers across a dark campus until we reached Academic Plaza, where we waited patiently for the ceremony to begin. It is during this time that I try to clear my mind — usually in prayer — and focus on what is happening in this moment. To be frank, I almost always fail, as my mind wanders and I end up thinking about myself and my problems. I’m not sure if it was the fact that this was the last Silver Taps of the year and my time at A&M, or if God wanted me to really focus (probably a bit of both). Because tonight I had a glorious revelation: tonight was not about me.
Tonight was not about my worries, my problems, my long list of things to do. Tonight was about standing for a fellow Aggie: a wife, daughter and sister that passed away before she had the opportunity to earn a law degree. Tonight was about being present for her friends and family, showing that we, as her Texas A&M family, may not have known her but grieve for her loss. Tonight was about actively being a part of the Aggie Spirit: selfless and united.
I stood in silence and pondered all these things, baffled by how fragile life is. I am still a student; I could still be honored at Silver Taps. And I have a sister who is attending A&M in the fall. And I might have children or grandchildren that will eventually become students in Aggieland. I could very easily be required to come back for a Silver Taps to mourn their loss. I pray that this kind of tragedy won’t happen, but there is no certainty.
These thoughts may sound morbid and melancholic, but far more prevalent than these negative feelings are those of peace and comfort. To look out into the darkness and see hundreds of young people, most of whom never met the deceased, is astounding. Where else in the world do students gather once a month to quietly pay their respects to a random stranger? Not only was I taken aback by the beauty of the present, but I was incredibly humbled by the nostalgia of Silver Taps. My mother stood for her classmates thirty-three years ago. My grandfather stood for his classmates sixty-seven years ago. While the buildings on campus may look a bit different, they still stood where I stood, thought what I thought, felt what I felt.
I pray that I never return to Texas A&M on the first Tuesday night of the month ever again. But regardless of whether I am called to attend once more, I will never forget just what Silver Taps means to me.