I crossed the stage this morning, the University conferring upon me the degree of MBA, with all the rights and privileges thereunto. I shook the right hands, in the right order and did not fall over. Cheered for classmates. Hugged my aunts and uncles that came. Held the flowers they brought me.
I told everyone that there would be a photo of me in the stupid hat, with the silly robes and with the biggest grin in the world.
I wore my mother’s gold necklace. Gabriel’s bracelet. Carried my father’s lighter.
Our family is where we come from. I am proud of where I come from. Proud of the people who taught me grit and resilience and fortitude. It meant the world that they brought me flowers, but also that they came. They came to cheer me on, to be proud of me.
I carry my son with me everywhere, but on a day like today, it matters to me that whatever else I am, I am also Gabriel’s mother. He is gone but not forgotten.
And I had a safety pin.
I asked a friend to bring me the pin. It was a last minute realization, the idea that I could pin the lighter into my dress. It doesn’t seem like much, bringing someone a pin. But she brought me the ability to carry forward where I come from into who I am becoming. She brought me the means of connecting it all together. This is what our friends do for us – they help us hold it together. In a pinch, when you need help, they bring you a pin.