Tasting the Bittersweet

Despite nearly two months of freedom from academia, I have maintained a loud silence on this blog. Apologies to those who look to it for updates, but really, I doubt I’ve kept anyone on pins and needles waiting for my words. Still, some updates are due and reflection are in order.

The biggest news is the official completion and passing of my thesis/dissertation. While I’ve been done for a while, I received my final grade (or mark) last week. I won’t post my results here for fear of confusing Americans who might think I did poorly, thanks to the bizarre UK grading/marking system 😉 Suffice to say, I passed and am pleased with my results.

At this point you may be wondering why I titled this post “Tasting the Bittersweet”. And I hesitate to use that title. I am quite thrilled, not only at my results, but, if I may brag some, at completing a postgraduate degree at a prestigious international school. And I am surrounded by supportive friends and family who have made me feel all the prouder for the accomplishment. So why then does it feel bittersweet?

I’ll graduate on the 13th of December, three years and three years after my mother died. And though I have no lack of loving people cheering me on, I miss hearing her voice in that crowd. She encouraged me to pursue graduate education long before I was even thinking about my undergraduate education. It was hard not to be able to share my decision to go to grad school with her, and it is hard to now be facing the successful completion of that phase of my life without being able to celebrate it with her. She was a patient listener and wise advisor as I dreamed about life and the future. To mark the passage of another milestone without her is sad to me. I knew it would be, I expected it, but it is nevertheless, difficult.

There are no doubts in my mind how she’d respond today, and I can nearly hear her voice saying it. Calling death “loss” is rather odd in many ways, not least of which is because I have found that she isn’t really missing from my life. Though she no longer walks this earth, years of motherly love leave a mark that you cannot lose. And though I grieve her absence, I find joy in her living memory.

Hopefully this post doesn’t sound needlessly sad; it isn’t meant to be. Though I write this with tears in my eyes, they cannot overwhelm the smile also on my face. I have come to believe part of grieving is embracing the sadness you sometimes (or often) feel. You cannot let sadness and loss keep you from living life, from “moving on”, but likewise you miss out on the beauty that comes through loss if you don’t recognize and embrace some of that sadness. Experiencing loss has taught me so very much about life, love, family and faith. I take life a little less for granted and love the people around me a little more because of my journey with grief. Our culture quickly shuns pain, when the reality is that most bitter difficulties can produce the sweetest fruit. And that process is, if I may, a bittersweet one.

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