Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 13, 2011

Tough Graduation: Mom isn't here

... in person

By BETH ANN STRUDGEON
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Sunday, June 7, is a day I will never forget. That day, my elder sister walked across the stage to get her diploma. I woke up that morning excited for my sister because she had struggled through hard times that year and finally made it to her graduation. Everyone in my house was getting ready, but my mother was still in bed, sick. Eventually, she crawled out of bed and got ready.

I remember sitting in New Hope Church watching my sister's friends walk down the aisle, the friends that I considered my adopted brothers and sisters. Most of them lived at my house because they loved it more than their own homes.

My mother and family sat behind me. My mother was one of the loudest people in that church. When they called my sister's name our mother was the loudest -- screaming, yelling, whistling and smiling with such joy in her face. I looked back at her and laughed.

I remember that day the most because it was the last day I saw my mother smile.

I was 14 when I found out that my mother had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. She sat me down on Easter Sunday in 2007 and told me she had cancer, but she did not want me to worry. She told me that she was a fighter and was going to survive.

I immediately started crying. What would I do without her? That day we went to my aunt's for Easter dinner. Everyone was asking what was wrong with me. My mother told them she had told me that about the cancer that day. I would not eat. I couldn't talk to anyone. I was so upset I did not know what to do.

Even though my mother was very sick, never once did I ever hear her complain, only if she was tired. She never was down, she was always her happy, amazing self.

My mother was a very generous and loving woman. She would let anyone stay with us, mostly my sister's friends, but anyone in need could live with us. It did not matter to her if we lived in a three-bedroom house and did not necessarily have the room for another person. If she knew someone was in need of a home she would invite them in. A lot of teenagers called my mother Momma Strudge.

I am a senior at Elk Rapids School this year. It is also the hardest school year I have been through: I am struggling to keep up my studies and focusing on my future when the person that I thought was going to be in it is no longer here. This person was the most important person in my life since I was a tiny girl. She was always there to wipe my tears, hold my hair when I was sick and puking, and talk me to sleep; we would do everything together. We would go shopping, dance, laugh and take naps together. She was not only my mother but my best friend.

The day I step across that graduation stage will be the most exciting but also one of the hardest days of my life. Knowing my mother was alive to see three of her girls graduate, but will not be able to see her baby graduate makes me sad. But I also know that day my family and friends will be there for me, I also believe that when they call my name, and I walk across that stage, my mother will be looking down on me, screaming, whistling and smiling.

Beth Ann Strudgeon graduated from Elk Rapids High School.