A bittersweet graduation offers hope and healing


As we drove to Augusta for Bernard Charles McNair Jr.’s graduation Friday, everything was perfect. His mother was in good spirits, wearing her cardinal pin and the beautiful pearls her dear son gave her last Mother’s Day. The sun was shining and we prayed for God’s strength as we departed.

Joanne McNair still doesn’t know how he pulled off the best Mother’s Day ever. She just knows it was wonderful, like her son. Bernard Jr. must have known it would be their last Mother’s Day together. At 24, he nearly always had a big smile, personality for days and wisdom of the elders. On last Mother’s Day, he presented Joanne with a pearl necklace, a card and other gifts.

He orchestrated all of this from his hospital bed at Emory University, where he’d had dozens of surgeries and was preparing for a small bowel transplant at Georgetown University Hospital. Over two years, Bernard Jr. had undergone multiple surgeries as he battled complications from Crohn’s Disease. The disease and its complications caused him to lose weight, have difficulty holding down food and suffer with frequent pain.

Last July, Bernard Jr. lost his battle with the disease and its complications, but he won the war. He touched more people in 24 years than many of us do in a lifetime. He was strong in his faith and his parents believe he got a glimpse of life on the other side and prayed for an end to his pain.

His parents believe God chose to answer Bernard Jr.’s prayers. They have accepted God’s will and maintained their faith, as has Bernard’s sister, Brianna.

The McNairs entered the James Brown Arena Friday filled with emotions and unsure what to expect. They were escorted to their seats by a representative of the political science department, where Bernard was a student, He made the most of his years at Augusta State University, now Georgia Regents University. He was a resident assistant, gave advice to his schoolmates and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, the fraternity of his father and best friend, Bernard McNair Sr. One of his co-workers named her son after him, and a department award was named in his honor last month. Bernard Jr. planned to attend law school after graduation.

God had other plans. In reality, Bernard Charles McNair Jr.’s graduation was on July 8. That’s when his commencement — his new beginning in Heaven — began.

When his parents walked across the stage to receive his diploma, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation for their son. It was the perfect end to Bernard’s time in Augusta. Continue to rest in heaven my friend. We feel your presence daily and thank God for your life.

bernard joannebernard jr. and sr.brianna


5 thoughts on “A bittersweet graduation offers hope and healing

  1. Beautifully stated. Bernard Jr. lives on. He is indeed an amazing young man. We were and are privileged to know him. He is with the Lord but we feel his giving, kind spirit. We honor him by living the life he would want us to live, giving glory to God in thought, word, and deed.

  2. I’m honored I was able to call Bernard one of my homes lol one of my friends.. God sends people in your life that he teaches you great lessons through..as a person who suffers from depression he taught me to look at life from a different perspective..he always said to me “it could always be worst”…that motivated me…for that I’m still here..RIP Bernard..
    P.S. I was at the graduation I know you was there too

    • Raymond, thanks for reading my blog and writing me. My daughter and B were good friends in high school and the McNairs are our neighbors. As you said, we are blessed to have known him. How did you hear about this blog post? I’m curious because more than 500 people have read B’s story over the last two days and I posted it right after graduation. Take care of yourself. Depression is a bear. If you ever need to talk email me at tuck_angela@yahoo.com with your number and I’ll call you. Be blessed and #BStrong. Bernard is looking out for you and wants you to live strong!!!

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