real life

'There's one person missing from my graduation day photos.'

My university graduation has been a day I’ve visualised since I was a little girl. I just wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually get there.

But on Monday, I made it. I graduated. My life as a student was finally over.

And with my dad and a close friend by my side, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

It was just missing one person, my beautiful mum.

This episode of The Well is all about the complicated relationships that we have with our mothers. Post continues after audio. 

Mum and I had often talked about the day I would graduate from university, and talking about it made her so excited. She said of all the things she wanted to see, me in my graduation cap and gown was at the top of her list. And I always thought she’d be there.

That was at least until her health began to rapidly deteriorate two to three years ago, around the same time I moved away for university.

Mum has lived with severe Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis for the last fifteen years. These past few years especially, we’ve seen a dramatic change in not only her physical health, but her mental health as well. And as her daughter, it breaks my heart.

Her condition now is so fragile that she’s lost all her independence. Holding a fork, drinking from a glass, turning a door handle, and walking up the stairs are just a few things mum can no longer do. She hasn’t been able to for quite some time.

So when my parents and I began to discuss my graduation, I knew in my heart, no matter how much I wished, mum wouldn’t be able to make it there.

Not because she didn’t want to be there, because she did. She’d waited for this day for as long as I had.

It was because she couldn’t. She physically couldn’t.

Image: Supplied

So in the lead up to my graduation, we spoke more regularly on the phone. We organised my outfit, and decided I'd wear red. Her favourite.

Then on Sunday night, the night before graduation, she called to wish me all the best and to say she was proud of me.

She cried a little, and then I cried.

I cried, not because I was upset she couldn't be there, even though I was. I cried because I felt as though she thought she was letting me down.

But as much as it hurt us both, we knew that this was how it had to be.

So I told her we would take plenty of photos and dad would Facetime her during the ceremony so she could share in all the excitement of the day.

Image: supplied

My dad captured so much footage of the ceremony, and we took way too many photos.

And in every photo we took, I thought about mum. When the Dean called my name to receive my degree, I thought of mum. And when my dad and I had our professional photographs taken after the ceremony, I thought about her then too. I'm sure my dad did as well.

She is, and always will be my loudest cheerleader, even though now she's cheering from a distance.