On Sunday, my family members are driving to see me, from many many miles away, so that they can be with me on Tuesday. That is the day of my graduation ceremony. I will be getting hooded as a Doctor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature. I have all the required medieval looking hat and robe and hood, in the official school colors. I may however skip the robe, and just wear the hat (called a "tam" because it is made of velvet and octagonal) and hood with a knitted Icelandic dress that my friend Koleen gave me when I lived in Iceland. She had found it at Goða Hirðinn. I'll post pictures here of the event.

But today I am not in a very celebratory mood, because I received some rather sad news. In addition to my family, I had also invited a few of my dearest girlfriends to come to the event, but first one was disinvited after she broke up with my brother, then another was unable to come because she was called to a job interview in the midwest. But my friend Christine was still planning to come.

That is, until yesterday. She called me today to tell me why she won't be able to make it: her mother's ovarian cancer has come back, and with a vengeance. Her mom has probably only about a month to live, and this just after going through a full Chemotherapy regiment. So Christine obviously needs to be with her mother now.

I guess readers of my blog are used to me taking something so personal and tragic as that, and finding some way to abstract it an analyze it, so I hope you will forgive me for doing the same now.

One of the things that struck me as so poignant about Christine's situation is that she is going through this process of watching her mother die all alone. Christine is an only child, and her mother was an only child who immigrated to California from Germany in the 1960s. Christine is married, but she has no children of her own. Her mother divorced her father years ago, and her father died about 10 years ago. Although both of her parents married a second time, there are no half-siblings or even step-siblings from those unions. When her mom got ill the first time, six months ago, the only people to visit Christine and her mom was her father's second wife, and me.

Anyhow, I can't imagine a situation quite like that playing itself out in Iceland, that a single individual would be so singly responsible for bearing all the responsibility, all the grief, all the caring, all the sadness, when someone dies. I just couldn't help thinking, as soon as she told me the news, how grateful I am to have siblings. They are, afterall, the only people with whom one can share all of life's experiences, both good and bad.


Rubye Jack said…
How exciting that you're actually be graduating this Sunday but how sad your friends won't be able to be there with you. And even sadder that Christine is alone with her mother. You're fortunate to have a good relationship with your siblings; some of us don't. Regardless, you're still be graduating and that is a very very good thing. Congratulations!
Jono said…
Congrats on your graduation! My wife is an only child of only children. My brother and I are her only known relatives left. I understand Christine's plight.
mlb said…
It's funny you write this. As a kid, I loved being an only child. As my parents age, it feels very heavy, very lonely. Friends are a saving grace. Christine is lucky to have you in her life.

And congrats on graduation! I'll call you "Doctor" from here on out!

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