The night before graduation.
I wasn't all that excited about this graduation. I wasn't sure if it's because it's just another graduation for me... or if it were for any other reason... but tonight as I was steaming my gown and hood... it kinda hit me. This time around... he won't be there.
We met during college. School plays an important role in most young adults' lives and our lives were no exception. Our relationship was punctuated by graduations... I remember the night before his graduation from UCI. I remember leaving post-it note encouragements inside his cap, inside his shoes... all over his apartment. I remember his joy after he graduated. We'd barely been dating a month and a half or so and I distinctly remember how happy he looked that day. I think that was the first time I saw him smile like that... that smile of pure joy... mixed in with pride and accomplishment. It really showed on his face.
I remember the night of my honors convocation... he always used to make fun of me with the stuff I did for school. He'd say "honors convocation" with his silly british accent (the same one he used to make fun of me and Harry Potter and the Phineas Banning Alumni House). That night of the honors convocation... I don't think my parents went... he was my biggest fan. The one that I stared at from my seat. The semi-stalker who would zoom in on me and take pics of my head in the crowd.
I remember the night before I graduated from UCI... he took pictures of me in cap and gown and then later photoshopped me into strange backgrounds. (sorry I can't find those pics)
And then having him fly back from Brazil to be there for me when it was my turn to graduate from UCI...
In grad school... these little things started to become more meaningful... the night of my Eta Sigma Gamma induction was the first time he met my public health classmates... and he went out with his beanie... the beanie that covered the hair that he lost from radiation treatment.
The day of my masters graduation was the first day he went out in public without his beanie... after his hair had grown back after radiation and after he finally let me cut his hair. I remember being so proud of him. He looked so good.
And he was there the night of my nursing pinning ceremony... that was the last school event that happened just a few weeks before we found out the tumor had come back the second time.
And this time... he won't be there.
Even though this cum laude medallion thingee is totally NOT completely legit (they transferred over my UCI grades + my public health grades + my nursing school grades and averaged them out all together... only undergrads are supposed to get these things)... I KNOW he woulda made fun of me... half cuz I was his favorite nerd to harass and also half because I know he was always proud of me and every single one of these little accomplishments and "graduations".
Maybe subconsciously, I was avoiding facing it... not being excited that he won't be zooming in on me in the crowd this time... that he won't be waiting for me with another big wreath of orchids (which I totally think are a waste of money but somehow coming from him... it always meant something special)... or texting me while I'm sitting there listening to all the speeches quoting Helen Keller and all the grand hopes and dreams for the future and how we're going to change tomorrow.
But it's just a graduation.
On a daily basis, I'm hit with realizations and memories. Going to the Huntington today... I was reminded of the time we went... right before we left for Houston... I pushed him around in the wheelchair along the black asphalt walkways... through the Chinese garden... through the little windy path flanked with towering bamboo stalks or whatever you call them. Even driving on the freeway, I get flashbacks every time I exit Azusa Ave... the very exit I used to get off to see him in Hacienda for years and years.
A few people have asked me lately... what I do with the pain... how do I respond to the emotions, the memories... the flashbacks... the heartache...
The simple answer is that I just let myself feel it all... I try not to suppress anything. Usually, I cry. I probably cry every other day... maybe even everyday. Just a little bit. Sometimes the tears just fall out. Sometimes my eyes are just dry. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't feel bad about it, but I'm simply honest with myself about how things make me feel and I let myself feel them. This is not sad. This isn't something that you should be worried about. This is life. This is my life. It's normal and natural. It's normal to feel things and it's normal to cry... just like it's normal to laugh at something that's funny. You don't have to be surprised that I still grieve. You don't have to feel sad for me either. I don't think I will ever stop remembering or stop feeling things... I let myself feel things but I don't let it cripple me.
Using the amputation analogy again... losing my husband... or any kind of loss really... kinda like losing a limb except in my case it's not obvious to everyone when you first look at me. Let's say it's like losing an arm or a leg. Once it's gone, it's gone. Life will never be the same, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's worse than before... it's just a different reality than it used to be. I can learn to adapt and live life in this new reality or I can spend all my time pining after the old reality... wishing, longing... but in all of that... comes self-pity... comes bitterness... resentment... jealousy... those things... blind and cripple a person from seeing and experiencing all the good that still remains in the new reality... and also might keep a person from being able to pick up and move on.
Someone asked me if it was easier for me to go back to the way things were because we were only married for a short amount of time. Easier. I don't know. I don't think any of this is easy. Being healed from this kind of thing... is downright impossible. Impossible for me, impossible for every human being. But God... the Lord, Yahweh... is the God of the impossible and He has made the impossible happen in my life. And actually... things aren't the way they were before... yes, some parts of my life resemble the life I lived before Anderson was ever in the picture but... I know for a fact that on the inside... I have not gone back to the way things were... I do not WANT to go back to the way things were. Things are a billion times better now than they ever were before and I never ever want to be the same person I used to be.
I am still me. I am exactly who God created me to be... God has done the work to exchange the years of accumulated baggage, the bitterness and cynicism, the hardness, the callousness, the hurt and the pain... and replace it all with a heart of love and hope.
I actually hope that everyone would experience God the way I do... or even more powerfully. It always floors me when I think about the fact that God chose me... that He gave me the life I've been given... that He's revealed what He's revealed to me. A love so amazing.
I've also been thinking a bit about widows... and how God's heart is so tender towards them (and also towards orphans, foreigners, the sick and hurting). But as far as widows... God has extended a few of them extraordinary grace in the Bible... as evidenced by the widows that experienced miracles of provision and even bringing back their sons from the dead through Elijah and also Elisha after him... God's grace towards Naomi and Ruth... even also for Tamar (who was also widowed... made some mistakes but her son is in the bloodline of Jesus Christ), Abigail (who was immediately taken care of by King David after she was widowed) and also Bath Sheba (who became the mother of king Solomon... the one who was chosen to rule after David). Their stories teach me about the heart of God... their stories show me how God takes care of His own... and how His heart breaks alongside mine... and how much and how far He goes to tenderly care for me, my heart... and how He does the work to provide for me and restore my brokenness.
OK... it's way past the time that I should be sleeping if I need to wake up when I need to wake up for tomorrow. I guess I'll stop writing now. Night!