My eldest daughter graduated from high school tonight. She played in her final orchestra contests over the past few weeks, attended multiple final awards ceremonies. We will travel for her college orientation program later this week. Achievements, endings, beginnings.

Listening to Pomp and Circumstance even as a child always stirred emotions in me, tonight was no different. And in some strange round-about way I felt like I’d graduated too, but in a different sense.

Graduation ceremonies are ceremonies of successful completion, the symbol of a job well done. Graduation marks a time of moving on from the past into the future with new learned abilities and resources. The acquiring of tools that enhance independence. Completion of the old, entrance into the new. Moving on, moving away.

I find myself in a different place than many other parents of graduating seniors. I am celebrating that my daughter will begin to embark on a life of independence, a life away from her home and family as it has been until now. I celebrate that she will assume an ownership of her own life, not her life under my 100% guidance and control. Some parents I know are sad their children will be living away from them, are afraid they will no longer be needed as much as they have been until now.

But my cancer diagnosis has made my own views vastly different. The very worse part of my cancer diagnosis wasn’t the fear of pain or dying, it was the terror of abandoning my children when they still needed me. I wanted so badly to live long enough for my children to abandon me as they took ownership of their own lives and became able to provide for their own needs. I wanted to live long enough to see them fly away on their own wings. I wanted to complete my job of raising them. I wanted to graduate, I guess, from my role as the mother of dependent children.

I want to always be close to my kids and have a relationships with them, but I want so much for them to be able to meet their own needs and to be able to sustain their lives independently. I want them to be able live how and wherever their lives lead them…next door or Africa, 2 blocks away or 2000 miles away. I just want them to be self-sufficient, able to provide for their needs, to have the tools to follow wherever their dreams take them. I want them to have lots of love from lots of people in their lives.

I want them to be able to live easily without me–just in case. I want to free them from needing me too much, because I know how fragile my existence is.

In maybe a strange coincidence, just before my daughter’s graduation, I received an email from the friend of a cancer patient diagnosed with my same cancer. She died 4 days ago, that’s why she didn’t answer the email I sent her the first of this month. She was a single mom and left behind a handicapped child. She’d told me she had great faith in God and she knew God would grant her a healing miracle and that she would live to raise and take care of her son. I believe in God and I’m sure there is a reason she was not allowed to do that, but I can’t understand it from my perspective here. My heart broke for her, for her son. My greatest fear came true for her. She didn’t make it to graduation.

It was a great gift that both my daughter and I were able to graduate tonight.