It was a rainy day, but a happy one. My friends and I wore shiny blue caps and gowns, tassels swaying and eyes shining. Colorful umbrellas bobbed like party balloons through a crowd of family, friends, and faculty, boosting the festive atmosphere. No more school, I kept telling myself. No more tests, papers, or grades. I had my college degree, and it was time to do something with it. I had a job lined up, an apartment my husband and I had moved into a few months earlier, and future that felt like a wide-open door to a new future.
My husband was with me, cheering me on as I had done for him at his graduation ceremony two years before, in the early days of our dating relationship. My best friends were there, most of them in the same graduating class and making plans of their own. My parents had made the 500-mile journey to celebrate with us and show their pride in another college graduate. Despite the rain, we all smiled and snapped photos and pinched ourselves to make sure we really had made it.
But all day, Mom had that familiar faraway look in her eyes, that stiff half-smile on her lips. And as much as I had spent my teenage years trying, I had never been able to escape the emotional devastation of seeing that look. I knew that sometime soon, perhaps very soon, we would lose her again.
The Cycle of Loss
I was right.
The next morning, when my husband and I got out of bed, we wandered out of our room to spend some time with my parents before they left for home. We found Dad hovering over Mom, trying to rouse her. She lay where she had slept, awake but catatonic.1