Graduation is Bittersweet
Growing up, education was always a valued thing in our household. My mother held a master’s degree in education and my father, when I was three, obtained his doctorate in ministry. It was assumed that following high school the path was to attend college and obtain some sort of degree. It did not feel like pressure, it was simply the logical path. My siblings and I were all intelligent and there was no real reason that we could not make good grades. Mom and Dad were both reasonable people. They never expected a certain letter grade out of us as long as we were truly trying in a class; however, it didn’t fly if we made a bad grade because we had been too lazy to turn in assignments.
(Dad's doctoral graduation-- Golden Gate Seminary)
There was a slight hitch in my educational aspirations when the end of high school came. Though I was smart, I was not the smartest—I was not in the “top ten” of my class. I had gotten a 28/36 composite on my ACT which was better than many but still not notable enough for some scholarships. I applied for a fellowship at a liberal arts college a few hours away and made it into their top 80 applicants but did not get one of the 5 slots available. My parents made too much money for me to qualify for financial aid (aside from some loans) and too little money to actually be able to pay for me to go. Here I was in the middle class quandary of wanting an education but not being sure how to make it happen.
Rather than taking the route of crazy debt when I still was unsure of a major, I began attending the local community college in the fall of 2005. I had received a small scholarship which paid for my first semester and my parents paid for my second semester. I worked part time as a nanny and was planning my wedding. Once I got married in June of 2006, I was at poverty level and qualified for grants to cover full tuition at the community college level. It was no fun struggling to pay the bills but it was a beautiful thing to be able to afford school. When I had my LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) pinning ceremony in the spring of 2008, my family was there and so proud of me. Later in 2010 I had my RN pinning ceremony (which also meant I had an associate’s degree) and my family was there, excited to celebrate with me.
May 4th, 2018, at 2 PM was commencement for my Bachelor’s degree in nursing. I achieved this degree while overcoming so much. I started this program as a widow, a mother of two girls who were 3 and 1, and continued working 24 hours/week as a labor and delivery nurse. During the program three of my family members died in a three-month span. I battled severe depression for a few months in that time but managed to keep my grades up and my children happy and healthy. I managed to make exercise a priority in my life because I need, desperately need, the outlet of running to help make me healthy both physically and emotionally.
When I walked across that stage Friday, there was one person I missed more than anyone else—my Dad. Yes, I had several special people there in the audience for me—my mother who just doesn’t give up (so much of why I am the way I am is from her), my encouraging big brother, my two precious girls, my surrogate father who softens the blow time after time that my own dad isn’t physically present, and his wonderful wife who is another wonderful, loving mom to me. Yet—it was palpable—Sam White was missed.
Sometimes even at 31, you want to be hugged by the man that changed your diapers and wiped vomit off your face. You want to hear “I love you” from the man who used to call your sports bras “slingshots”. You want to see the signature “I’m so proud of you. Love, Dad” on a card in that familiar cursive. You want a kiss on the cheek from the same guy that walked you down the aisle years ago. You still wish he was there, sitting in the bleachers with his arm wrapped around your mother, helping her wrangle the kids. You can know it in your heart—can know how proud he would be… and still feel the sting of his absence on a day like that.
I know you’re proud of me, Dad. I know you always were. I love you.
(June 10, 2006, my wedding day, Dancing to "My Girl")
(With my girls and Mom)
(With my brother)
(With my girls)
(With my bonus parents)