“Many of you know that I lost my husband Doyle last December. It has been a very difficult road, and I KNOW that I would not be standing here today if it weren’t for my husband, this fine faculty, my family, and my friends. It was during semester finals time that my husband fell ill and my instructors were so kind and worked with me to ensure that I did not drop out. Before he died, Doyle wanted me to tell those instructors what wonderful people they are—I am doing that now. He made me promise that I would finish college. LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED DOYLE.”~Relinda “Student Commencement Speech Graduation 2010”
After navigating heartbreak, storms, and misery, we did it. We achieved a pivotal point of a goal that was set in 2008. We graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in English. I did not establish the goal alone; my husband and I decided that it would be a logical step for me to pursue an Associate of Arts degree, knowing that a Master of Arts would signify the completion of a dream. I began taking college courses during the summer of 2008 with my devoted husband by my side. He helped me study. He rubbed my back and neck when I ached from studying. He encouraged me. He loved me.
We were only one semester shy of earning an Associate of Arts degree when he succumbed to cancer. I hate that word; I hate that it continues to destroy lives. At the conclusion of our third semester of college, I buried my husband. During January 2010, I began a concluding chapter in our goal, but I began alone. I was no longer his “college girl,” I was merely a widow no longer caring whether I woke in the morning or not. But I made a promise to him. As he was dying, he asked me to promise that I would finish college and teach. It was a promise I made and it remains a promise that I will keep.
In May 2010, I stood at a podium to represent a group of college graduates as we celebrated our accomplishment. I spoke about the fact that none of us accomplishes anything alone. There is always someone helping as we each follow our own journey. I have been fortunate to have the help of many others: family, friends, professors, and most of all, my wonderful husband.
There are days that I honestly do not know how I endure the grief. I know the grief will never lessen as I learn to accept the fact that my love is gone (the grief only grows), but I also know that I must fulfill the promise I made three years ago. He never had the chance to see me accept my first degree and he was not there for the second degree either, at least not physically. But it helps my heart to believe that he was there in spirit, smiling and whispering “That’s my college girl” and I have to believe that he will be there the next time too. I must believe.
©2012 Relinda R.