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Freshman Orientation

Friday, June 17, 2011
 I am still getting blindsided with grief in places that I should have seen it coming, but because the business of life and my role as a parent of three teenagers keep me rolling from one thing to the next, I don’t always have a chance to prepare, or even realize there could be rough waters ahead.  I got home from the beach yesterday at 5:15, walked the dog with Julia and got in about a half hour of one on one time catching up with her, went to pick up Michael Anthony from the pool and chatted with him on the way home, and was at Belhaven University by 6:15 for the kick-off of Mia’s freshman orientation.  She was so excited about this weekend, since it is her first big step toward independence.  They had events planned for the students late into the night; she would be sleeping in her dorm, and then have meetings all day today.   She and her Aunt Lesa, Michael’s sister, went to the train station to pick up her roommate, who was coming from Louisiana, and then headed to the campus.  This is when I joined her.

She called me on my cell phone to tell me that the dinner was going to be at the new Pavilion.  I did not think it was going to be too hard.  I thought all I was doing was eating dinner with her on campus then going to a parent panel for questions and answers.  I parked the car then quietly walked down the sidewalk and up to the Pavilion, situated on a hill overlooking a green space and tennis courts.   As I got closer, that old, familiar feeling of grief began to fill the inside of my whole body.  Michael was the campus architect for this college, and the Pavilion was one of the most recent structures he had designed that was completed.  It was the President’s dream and Michael saw his vision and designed it in a beautifully creative way.  You feel like you are at the foot of a Greek ruin with the beautiful columns, the huge steps leading up to it, the platform area, and then the lovely green space surrounding it.  When he and I went with Mia to tour the campus together last fall, (even though Michael could have led the tour himself), we were with a large group of prospective students walking all around the campus.  The tour guide was a student who was trying to do his best to tell about the purpose of each building as we walked along.  As we crested the hill to the Pavilion and approached the platform area, he said, ”I am not really sure what this space is for.  It’s kind of cool and we have socials and things out here.”  Michael had kept his mouth closed the whole tour, but at this point he had to speak out.  He never told the crowd that he was the architect, but he explained the vision for the present use and the future use.  He explained how it could transition the outdoor space for different functions.  He helped us all see the vision of a baccalaureate service being held down in the green space once the tennis courts are moved to their new home and how the structure will make a grand outdoor stage or backdrop for whatever purpose they would be using it. Everyone seemed to completely get it once the right person was talking.

So here I was, sitting at the top of these steps, with a plateful of baked beans, slaw, and a hamburger on my lap. Mia was sitting next to me and we had a great view of what Michael saw when he was designing it.  I broke down and began to cry.  Mia’s hand slipped over onto my knee and just held me there as her eyes filled with tears.  We sat quietly next to one another, just like that, for a few minutes and felt the weight of that moment.  I was able to pull it back together and begin to eat my dinner and visit with her and her roommate.  After eating, I kissed her goodbye and I went to my car to drive a little closer to the building where they were holding the parent question and answer panel.  As soon as I got into my car, I let all of those tears loose that I was trying to hold back while I was “in public”.  I sent a text to a few friends to pray for me because I was not sure if I could make through the next meeting.  I pulled myself together then drove my car to a new parking place and decided to call my parents to ask them to pray for me at the moment.  My dad answered the phone, and just like little kids who cry harder after skinning their knees once they see their parents, I started to cry all over again with my Dad.  He was extremely sympathetic and sorry I had to go through this, but was glad I had called.  I made it through the one hour of sitting and listening.  The hard part was that, unbeknownst to me, a close friend was on the panel on the stage.  We had not discussed the fact that she was going to be involved.  I could not look her in the eye for fear that I may start crying again. 

I skipped the morning session this morning for parents.  It was in the auditorium in the Center for the Arts building.... where over a thousand people gathered for Michael’s funeral.    Mia understood.  She was so strong because she was so thrilled and overjoyed about the whole weekend.  I met her for coffee in the Student Center and went to the bookstore to purchase all of her textbooks.  It was a wonderful weekend for her and emotionally exhausting for me, but at the same time, it warmed my heart to see her enjoying herself and to know that she was right where God wanted her to be.


Anonymous Says:
June 18, 2011 at 2:19 PM

I just cried a few tears myself over this... and then I thought... how lovely that Mia's dad is a very real and tangible part of her upcoming college experience. He is literally there on campus with her. She will treasure that. I can imagine the Pavilion as a wonderful place for her to go when she needs to pray and have some time with both her earthly and her heavenly fathers. They are with her always. I thought the same thing with your last post too... that, while the stress of raising three children on your own can be overwhelming... I pray you will feel the accomplishment of what you and God and Michael have already done in that regard. That work is evident, even though it continues. Your wonderful children have the Godly characteristics of their dad with them still and forever.

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