Way back… We had some communications with SIU staff and professors about getting Summer her bachelor of science diploma posthumously. I think(know) in the hurricane winds of our life over the past few months it was kind of forgotten. A few weeks ago, I was talking to co-worker Chris Durand and he said that his wife had reached out (or was it Abby?) to the school to see what they could do to help move this along. Chris told me that it sounded like something was already in the works.
That was not too surprising to me because I had been talking to Justin Schoof, the Director of Earth Systems at SIUC about this subject. He seemed very taken by the cause and I wasn’t too worried. I figured if could be done, Justin would get it handled.
In the meantime, Angela and I have talked about it. Again, I think our PTSD has dulled our senses and reactions to these sorts of things. While Summer was working on those classes and doing homework while getting chemotherapy or cursing a quiz when she could have been relaxing… It seemed way more important and engaged with our motivations. When Summer passed… That light at the end of the tunnel started to fade. Is it for us? What purpose can this serve? Why do we care?
Seriously, this is the stuff that courses through your head. It’s a malaise and it’s nearly contagious.
I got an email from Justin this past week and it was all good news. “I’m reaching out to find out if your family would be available to accept her degree at the May commencement ceremony. ” He then went on with some of the details and finished up by saying “We are still thinking and talking about Summer a lot in the Geography program.”
What a great email to get. I got it around noon on Thursday and I struggled to not start crying my eyes out right there. As it was… I was at my desk wiping them back. The new normal is, if I have tears in my eyes I figure whoever comes into my office can deals with it!
I got home that night and told Angela about it. I will refer back to the malaise again. I think that consolation prizes are still not enough to ease the pain of Summer not being here. Angela said we could probably make that but she didn’t want to go on stage to or anything like that. She said maybe Nate might want to. This could have been “let’s fight over whos more pissed at life right now” but I sent the info over to Nate so he can join “us” on May 11th.
I emailed Justin back and said were would be there. I also said that I appreciate him doing this. He didn’t have to and it might seem trivial to some… But this is very special to us. Justin shot back that he was glad we could make it and went on to share a wonderful comment. I will use his words because they say everything, “And, by the way, it doesn’t seem trivial to me at all. I was teaching Summer statistics in the Spring (from St. Jude) and was really hoping to see her through to graduation. She was a good student, even under the hardest of circumstances, and deserves recognition.”
Yes. He nailed it. She deserves it. And, she had some pretty awesome instructors.
Summer and I verbally sparred over college and taking classes while she was in treatment. It was not a fight. It was more like “I got brain cancer Dad, I don’t have to do anything!” “What if I have 2 years to live?” she would say to me like it was an excuse to give up. I told her she was getting a degree even if that was the situation. She had been going to school for 3 years when she was diagnosed and my eternally optimistic side said that there was always “a chance” for better at St Jude. Finish the degree that worked so hard for. Besides… What else are you doing? Laying on the couch with Geno? OK… She did enjoy those days more than school towards the end.
The Scholarship is poetic in some ways we hope to pass some of this determination on to other kids. As I think about what will be said at Graduation next year, I am hoping we can distill a message about life and dedication in the few minutes of presentation at the ceremony.
Everything she did at SIUC mattered. Even if she didn’t finish the ultimate task, she left an impression on others who were witness to her hard work. She is being recognized for that fight and determination.
I use the analogy at work quite a bit when talking to the guys. I have no original ideas, so I am sure I read it somewhere.
When you look around at your coworkers, friends, and family… There are some you just know would be “there”.
I use the analogy of being in WW1 trench warfare. When things are at their most dire… Bullets overhead… Bombs raining in… Trenchfoot and starvation dragging you down into fatigue… But you still have to get up and make the attack. You can look around and know the people who would be there… And the people who would suddenly disappear or run away. You know who these people are.
Summer would have your back. Long before CARLE and St. Jude… We all knew that she had a special character trait that made her ready for anything.
(and this is where I stop before I start looking for someone, something to blame!)