It’s been two years since I lost you. You were too young, and so was I. With your premature exit from this world, you altered the course of my life forever. But it’s not something I’m “living with” or trying to “get over.” Life deals you a crappy hand sometimes, but those are the cards you have, and you can either use them or quit the game. And you didn’t raise me to be a quitter.
Around this time last year, I was filled with a deep remorse for all the mistakes I had made. I was keenly aware of all the things I would have done differently if I had been given the chance. And then I lost Bapa almost exactly a year after losing you, but I absorbed that hit, because when you’ve already been knocked to the ground, what’s another punch in the heart?
But the past two years have been full of more than just heartache and loss. I managed to get myself on a new path that has provided me with a great deal of happiness and satisfaction already. I took prerequisites, applied for, and started nursing school. Interesting classes and a new job have helped distract me from my loss and keep me moving forward. And more than ever before, I feel like I am doing my life’s work.
For that, mom, I have you to thank. You always taught me that I can do whatever I want to do. I might have been scared to switch careers from geology to nursing, but I thought about how you would be here cheering me on if you could be. I know you didn’t have the best at-home nurses when you were sick, so I promise that if I ever work in that capacity, I will do a better job than they did. I couldn’t do any of this if you hadn’t given me the tools (educational, financial, and emotional) to succeed. You built me a beautiful bird nest, and now I am able to fly on my own.
Perhaps most importantly, I have you to thank for some of the most wonderful people in my life. From supporting me in my decision to be in two collegiate sororities to taking our dog to the park for the first time*, you helped me build a quirky little family here in town. They have been there for me in my darkest hours as well as my brightest celebrations. My life is infinitely richer with these friends that have become family. You showed me what it means to be a good friend, and as a result I am now surrounded by people who love me. So even though you can’t be here to hold my hand, I have people who I trust to hold my heart.
Mom, I think you would be so happy with the choices I’ve made over the past two years. When I have made wrong turns, I have learned from those mistakes. When I have been forced into uncomfortable situations, I have found the strength to be assertive. And when I have thought about quitting, because it’s just too hard to keep on going, I have tried to be the woman you wanted me to be.
I can’t possibly thank you enough for all that you have given me. But this is a start.
*I feel like I’ve told this story in-person so many times, but I’ve never actually written it down. Bonnie found me when I was interning at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky in the summer of 2007. That was the summer my mom decided, on a whim, to move to the house where I currently reside. As a result, I had to convince her to adopt this dog before ever meeting her in person. We agreed on some terms (I would house-train her before moving back home) and a name (Bonnie is named after famed bandits Bonnie & Clyde because of the black “mask” marking over her eyes), and the rest is history. Except not quite, because one huge disagreement almost changed my whole life. I was indoctrinated that summer by my housemate who believed that all dogs should be raw-fed and all medicines and vaccines were evil. Not only did my mom refused to buy raw food for Bonnie, but when she went to register at the dog park, a rabies vaccine was required. I was so furious with her at the thought of vaccinating my dog that I barely spoke to her for a week. However, I’m so glad I lost that battle because I eventually got over my fanatical views, and my life has been forever changed by my infamous Dog Park Family. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am.