But then, as I was sitting in the stands with my 4 beautiful children, ggpa, grammie and papa, and I see my awesome husband walk out with his gown and hat on, it hit me.
I realized how much we had gone through; triumphed, and suffered to get here. To this moment. This very much NOT small moment. A little overwhelmed by this realization. I cried.
I cried for joy. For relief. For the pride I felt for my husband and what he's gone through. And a little out of sadness that we will be leaving what has become our home over the past 7 years.
M and I have created a story worth hearing. A story worth sharing. Maybe some day I'll write it in depth. But for now. I'll tell you shortly why I think it's worth hearing. And why this moment of watching him receive his degree meant so much to me.
In 2006 a few very important things happened. The first of which would be that M and I graduated from high school. Then we both went to college that fall. I got pregnant. And we got married. I'm not sure how many of you know that, but it's a piece of our history, so please, keep any rude thoughts to yourself. Anyway- if you missed it in the second sentence, we were both VERY young.
This beginning to our lives made things very difficult if you can imagine. We were both barely 19. M was now no longer going to school and instead, was working 3 jobs. So that was about 16+ hours a day. I stayed home and looked for jobs.
Over the next 7 years, to today, we faced challenge after challenge. M felt like he couldn't leave work, because he had to take care of us, so school wasn't an option. Soon after we had our 2nd baby, M got sick with liver disease. And this led to depression. Probably on both our parts, but mostly on his. This put a huge strain on our marriage. And left me for a long while to be the parent by myself. He recovered. And we became stronger as a couple.
It was around this time that we decided to take the plunge, live a few pennies cheaper or several thousand pennies cheaper, and send M to school. I worked full-time, but didn't have a job that paid a whole lot. As in, some months we only spent $50 on groceries for our family of 4. That was at our leanest.
We pressed on and dealt with normal marriage issues. As in, it's not actually as easy as you think to take 1 person from one life and another person from another life and put them in the same existence together to create another entire life together. There are bound to be cultural differences from simply being raised in different families. But we learned from each other and became stronger still as a couple.
Our 3rd child was born and 6 weeks later we were in the hospital with him. That was a pretty awful, scary, emotionally traumatizing week. And then for several months after, as we waited to see if the pathologists could decide if our baby had cancer or not, we stressed, cried more, and worried for our future. But M pressed on with school. Hoping he wouldn't fail his classes with such a huge and important distraction.
We were so blessed and found out our baby boy was going to be ok, a few more scars on his body than before, but he was no worse for wear. And M finished his semester with a 4.0.
It was at this time that we needed a little more help to just live. I wasn't working still from being on maternity leave and I postponed going back longer, so I could take care of my baby at home. He had his Broviac line in still and his chance for infection was very high because of this. So I stayed where I was needed and where I wanted to be. This was during the time that we didn't know if he was going to be ok and I didn't want to be at work; I wanted to spend time with him. If he died, the last place I wanted to remember me spending my time, was at work. This led us to some unfortunate extreme levels of poverty.
We got help. It was extremely humbling. For our entire marriage, up to this point, we were self sufficient. We did it on our own, we lived on $50 worth of groceries sometimes, but we were doing it by ourselves. So this shift in our needs, as our family changed, was hard for us.
M continued school and we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! But now with his last few semesters in sight, he decided to go back to work, so I could be at home with our family and we could begin to find our independence again. Working and going to school is hard for M, I know a ton of people do it. But for him, he wants to put 100% of himself into both things and he just can't. So he kills himself trying to. And then on top of working full-time and going to school full-time, he was applying for grad school, schmoozing for grad school, and was also raising our family with me. And we're pretty needy at home, especially me, since I was pregnant with our 4th little baby. :) But he kept on, made a few sacrifices in some places so he didn't go mental just barely before he graduated.
And we had our 4th little baby halfway through Ms last semester of school! Things were finally beginning to feel a little more normal.
We were becoming once again, more independent. We knew where M was going for grad school! (He got in where he wanted!) We were having some very special doors open for us.
It seemed like the path we decided to take; that began something akin to traversing the side of a very steep and actively spewing volcano- think Lord of the Rings; had transformed into a lovely stroll through flower-filled fields with rolling green hills and frolicking cute wildlife.
Which brings us to this place. Graduation. Here, with me standing with our 4 kids watching a pretty amazing man graduate! You'd never know he'd experienced an insurmountable amount of resistance in his young life and still managed to get where he is today. He has shown me what real strength looks like. He's shown me what a good man in a storm does. What a good man is. What strength is. It's quiet. It's ever present. It's enduring. It's finishing the race, no matter what slowed it down. It's not boastful. It's not loud. It doesn't brag. It doesn't put others down to get ahead. True strength is my husband. Through all his ups and downs, our ups and downs. He finished his race and he finished well.
So, I'm really serious when I say, if we can do it. Seriously. So can you.
Bring on the next 4 years of grad school!!