By Kenneth Stepp
Milestones are markers in my life and in those of others. Two weeks ago I was invited to experience a milestone in a very strong and brave friend’s life. She was graduating from nursing school with her bachelor of science degree. Her pinning ceremony was last night. I entered and sat in the back where I wouldn’t be noticed. Her 15 year old son invited me to sit with the family but I opted for the back of the auditorium. Why? Because I was overwhelmed with emotions. Her journey may have been the toughest I’m witnessed personally.
“Beautiful souls are shaped by ugly experiences.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo
As I sat watching the videos and enjoying the programs they had for such an event, I saw the photos of the nursing students with my friend in them flash by. They showed her in Africa helping those that will probably never be able to help themselves. I remember the yearly fundraisers so that she could go on these medical missionary trips, I remember her passion for them. A passion born out of her own need and the need of her own children. I’ve never known a more loving heart than hers, nor a more beaten and bruised one. Life has handed her so many heartaches. My mind wandered back to how this wonderful friend entered my life…
A few years ago a girl messaged me a Facebook. She commented on something I had written and it was a positive comment, something a writer like me welcomes with open arms. We messaged back and forth and somehow a deep friendship grew from those messages that day. One I value so much today. My loving, smart, and passionate friend has become an inspiration to me on what to do when hard times befall me. Although she is much younger than I, she has taught me so much about how to never give up, she has no quit in her. Her faith and trust in a loving God is inspirational as well.
I’ve never understood ceremonies the way I understood this one. Like so many things, this ceremony was a marker for her life. It was an indicator of things earned, of things to come, and that she would never accept less than success for her kids and herself again. My friend is the mother of four, 3 boys and one girl. In her past life she accepted much less than she and her children deserved. There came a day, like many of us experience that enough is enough. Life was so hard, so confusing and so hurtful, something had to change. What she couldn’t know when she decided to do something about life by enrolling in nursing school, was that life would get tougher before it gets better. My friend is a shining example of this.
“God said, I will take care of you, but I’ll make you strong in the process” – unknown
While sitting in the back, her 9 year old son beside me, I watched as they began calling their names to get pinned and prayed over. I could feel tears beginning to flow, her son looked at me and said, you’re crying. Yes I am, why? He asked. I remember her journey, I know what she did to get here. To him, I’m the nearest thing to a giant there is and a real man. Me crying may have been confusing. So explaining that real men cry was fun.
As I watched my friend cross the stage my memory kicked in. Over the years I watched her lose her dad, become homeless with her kids, have a myriad of illnesses, sick kids, car breakdowns, etc. She never gave up, not once. That pin was not just a pin. It represents the path of a fighter and the future of a healer. It means her children will never again sleep on a church floor or in a car. That pin is the spoils from a war she fought so bravely. That pin isn’t just a trinket to be shoved in a drawer somewhere. That pin, to me, is proof of a beautiful heart. The heart of a champion and also the heart of a living and loving God.
Well done girl. I have never been so proud of a friend as I was you last night. Thank you so much for including me…