Been quite awhile-and this probably won’t mark a resumption of posts–but I did want to commemorate Olivia’s graduation from Dos Pueblos High this past week. Certainly significant all on its own, but specifically in our case. Shortly after Trish’s ALS diagnosis, she came across a statistic that average life expectancy was 30 months. Counting ahead on the calendar, 30 months landed right on June 2020, so that became a target, or at least a hopeful goal of sorts. She really wanted to make it to Olivia’s graduation. She loved the boys’ Senior years with all their traditions and celebrations, and as much as she accepted how much of life she was going to miss, she really wanted to be there for this.
Her medical team appreciated her articulating such a milestone. While there was counsel about not setting unrealistic goals (ie, “we’re gonna beat this”), the doctor said it could be very helpful in guiding some of the decisions we might make about interventions, etc. This seemed reasonable and attainable. After all, it was the average and we like to think of ourselves as “above average”.
At an appointment a year ago, Trish reminded the doctor of this goal. I got a sick feeling: she’s not going to make it. The decline was too fast. Even if it were possible to survive a whole year, it was unimaginable how much the disease could rob her in that much time. Despite our doc being a composed professional, I noticed the slightest sighing hesitation, concerning glances when we could make eye contact, and an empathetic squeeze on my forearm as she walked us out of the office. She was seeing the same thing I was seeing.
Given what it meant to Trish to tell her story here, I want to properly document the milestone she hoped to see in the way she would do it (so buckle in for a long post with plenty of Greg’s pictures.) While we’d rather have Trish with us, the COVID pandemic wiping so much off the calendar softens the blow of her missing so much. As our family has learned that some of the most beautiful celebrations come amidst unwanted circumstances, this certainly holds true for the way Olivia closed out her high school years.
The week was kicked off by a celebration in an undisclosed off-campus location for an amazing group of lacrosse teammates.
I suspect there are a number of lacrosse teams in Southern California who are pretty relieved that COVID spared them a beating from these ladies. ;-). We are so grateful that Livy discovered the sport she loves and gets to keep playing in college, but more than that, we’re grateful for a team of incredibly caring, fun, smart and supportive girls; led by coaches who embody all of that.
Then came graduation day. First we took some pictures at the beach:
Then, it was off to the high school. Thanks to the amazing work and dedication of the faculty, Dos Pueblos was able to pull off an incredible drive-in graduation. Every graduate got one carload of family, and cars were spaced in the parking lot with the event broadcast on FM radio with projection on the outside walls of the Performing Arts Center.
But first, we got to drive around the campus lined by cheering teachers:
Lots of smiling, waving and cheering from the teachers that taught not only Olivia, but Max and Wilson, over the last nine years. We spotted Coaches Sam and Jess (along with Rob and Jocey), who appeared to be playing it cool.
But that didn’t last–
Then we got our spot in the parking lot and Livy took her seat on the roof as we waited for the sun to set.
Once it got dark around 9 and everyone could see the projections, the ceremony got underway. Amidst the speeches were some surprise celebrity messages:
The graduates got to go up and walk the stage, provided the maintained social distance and then promptly returned to their cars.
A beautiful and unforgettable night.
When we were house shopping back in 2007, Olivia was starting Kindergarten. While we were fortunate to have a great local elementary school (Yay, La Patera Tigers!), what drove our final decision was the chance for our kids to go to Goleta Valley Jr. High and Dos Pueblos High School. We could not be more pleased with the outcome, and frankly it’s hard to imagine that our last kid just finished. I am so glad that our final memory of the school will leave such a special imprint on us. We’ll never forget Olivia’s graduation and how it embodied the creativity, dedication and excellence of the people who have poured so much into our kids.
But things didn’t end there. There was still the matter of the cancelled prom. Aside from missing out on a night of fun, there had to be some reason to wear the dresses all of the girls got months in advance. So, Olivia and her creative friends organized their own backyard prom. There was an excellent dinner (served by the Wilcox siblings) and dancing under the stars, after-prom games and contests until 3am, some kind of rest period in tents in another backyard and then Sunday morning brunch! As I can barely remember one detail from my senior prom, I don’t think these kids will have any problem.
Way more pictures than I can post here, but they made lots of stops.
The last week has reminded me that there’s never a perfect moment for celebration. All we have is imperfection. Yet within it, we do the best we can. Somehow, laughter can exist in the midst of sadness. Even in the midst of grief, we can find things to rejoice over. Sometimes I have to work hard to find it, and other times celebration requires an almost defiant resolve. Trish did that. We did that again and again throughout Rudy’s life. There’s more beauty among the heartbreak than we might think. Part of me wishes it didn’t have to be so, but without it the heartbreak might completely crush us.
It wasn’t the perfect graduation we envisioned, but it was good. It was rich. We weren’t the only family at DP to experience heartbreak this year. Ours was one of a number of tragedies that actually put the COVID upheaval into some kind of perspective. But it was life-giving to be a part of a community that was faced with imperfection and, instead of dwelling on how many things weren’t right, figured out a way to acknowledge goodness in the midst of it. I’m really grateful for that.
But most of all, I’m really proud of her. Trish is too.