Thirteen years ago today I graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelors degree in history. It took 5 years and 4 different colleges, a marriage, a pregnancy and a baby, 4 quarters of french and 5 quarters of spanish, just about every history course you can imagine and enough pages worth of research papers to kill numerous trees. But I did it. And it's one of the accomplishments in my life that I am most proud of.Officially, I finished my last class in March of 1997. I still remember the overwhelming and conflicting feelings as I drove home that day after turning in my final 20 page research paper on women in the French Revolution. I didn't know whether to laugh in triumph or cry from sheer relief. One thing I did know, I was determined to "walk" in June. Graduation announcements, cap and gown, pomp and circumstance...I was going to do the whole nine yards. I was that proud of myself, that determined to have picture proof of my accomplishment.
June 13th dawned beautifully. My parents, my in-laws, my grandparents, Bryan and Rebekah were all there. (I suppose you could say even Julianne was there...I had just found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks before.) I don't remember much about the ceremony. Just little details here and there. But what I do remember with near perfect clarity is what happened afterwards as we were walking back to the car. Bryan and his parents were pushing me to name a restaurant for a celebration lunch. I was confused...they knew that I was planning to have a late lunch with my parents, grandparents and sister Mary who was graduating from high school that same day. I tried to remind them of this but they kept pushing. I couldn't figure out why. Finally, with a sigh, my father in law told me that my grandparents wouldn't be taking me to lunch after all. This led to even more confusion on my part. I could not fathom why they were telling me this or what led them to this conclusion. Finally Bryan stopped walking and turned to me. He took me into his arms and gently told me that they had received a call on the cell phone while I had been doing my graduation walk. My 3 year old cousin Amy had been hit by a car. My gasp of disbelief and horror led to my question of, "But is she going to be okay??" Bryan squeezed me even tighter as he said, "No. She died." I put my face into his shoulder and we stood there for I don't know how long while happy, reveling graduates streamed past us and sad, grieving tears streamed down my face.
Our celebration that day was different than planned or expected. Bryan, Rebekah, his parents and I did go to lunch. Bryan went back to work. And while his parents, concerned about my emotional state, pleaded for me to accompany them back to their home, I insisted I needed to go home and then, most likely, to my parents home to find out more details of what had happened and what I could do. Eventually, my parents, sisters and I made our way to my cousin's home where we all shared in grief and support together.
And so June 13th is a bittersweet day for me every year. A day to remember an amazingly good and happy thing. But also to reminisce about sweet little Amy.