It was a joyous event inside one of Kansas City’s most glittering venues.
My youngest son, properly capped and gowned, walked across the stage with his fellow graduates from UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.
As you would expect, the musical performances in the program were a cut above the typical graduation fare.
The event was held inside Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. On-stage dignitaries included two women whose names adorn the hall and center.
Friends and family filled the hall to celebrate the accomplishments of all the graduates who were there.
But the day also included a pall of sadness because of one who was not.
And for me, the moment of remembrance for a young man lost to murder amidst such a fabulous symbol of our civic pride really brought home the tale of two Kansas Citys and how thin the barrier can be between them.
On March 23, Aaron Markarian was shot to death near the UMKC campus. By all accounts, he was killed without provocation by one of the two robbers who had forced their way into the house just east of the Plaza.
Instead of celebrating with her son and his fellow graduates, his mother accepted his posthumous bachelor’s degree in voice performance and heard the announcement of a scholarship in the name of a young man whose gifts are now lost to the world.
For most of us there that day, there was a brief interlude of melancholy reflection before we went on with our lives.
For Aaron Markarian’s mother, the intense pain of losing a child will endure for the rest of her life. I say that, not because I can remotely understand, but because I have looked into the faces of so many other mothers who have been in her place.
Unlike his death, intruding as it did into the consciousness of people who rarely have to confront such tragedy, too many other young men are killed on Kansas City streets far both geographically and psychically from that palace of brilliant downtown eye candy.
Some generalizing cynical know-it-alls assume that most murder victims in Kansas City were probably engaged in some sort of nefarious activity when they met their demise.
But while some are, there have been so many other young men like Aaron Markarian, young men with talent, ambition and a joyful embrace of life, who have been gunned down in senseless spasms of violence.
Each single family tragedy is only exacerbated by the tragedy of our collective complacence.
I know I’ve preached this sermon before.
But too many young men like Aaron Markarian have died.
Doing something to fight senseless violence needs to be the business of the entire community. The kids who think it’s OK to pick up a gun and go looking for someone to rob need to be taught that is unacceptable.
We all need to do our part to impart that lesson.
As the mother of another murdered son told me recently, “enough is enough.”