When I was called and walked up to my Principal to receive my diploma, I thought: “This is it. One ending. Another beginning.” My Principal met my gaze and mouthed: “So proud of you, Mary…” The weight of my diploma fell into my hands. A flash of my Father’s camera went nearly blinded me as I walked down the ramp with my diploma clenched in my hands. I forced a smile for the sake of my family and especially for my Father on the surface, but inside, I was completely numb with shock that high school had ended and now college was about to begin. Now, what?
Just when I was about to stuff a couple orange earplugs into my ears, I heard Claudia whisper faintly: “Are you asleep?”
I never thought too much about religion, because I always considered myself more so spiritual than religious. In that moment, I felt the most spiritual and at peace than I ever remembered feeling. I bowed my head and clasped my hands, but I could not resist looking all around me at such beauty and feeling such radiating warmth. Claudia and I eventually fell completely silent. A loud voice started up in my head: “Mary, no one knows you here at college. No one knows about your past, your secrets, and your life. You can hide away your past and all the pain and all the hurt with your health and how it affected your family and you. Maybe you can even feel less guilty about staying alive while your organ donor died. You can be someone that you always wanted or dreamed to be, and there is not anyone or anything to stop you. You can be anyone you want to because of this second kidney transplant.” I lifted my head and the light through the stained glass windows made me blink profusely. That is when I answered my thoughts with a combined delayed, determined, yet surrendered vow: “So, let’s start then.”