March 30, 2015
When I was younger the month of March filled me with extreme amounts of joy. I was able to look forward to the birthdays of my paternal grandmother, my cousin, my aunt, my father, and even myself, all in the same month. Recently, this sentiment has changed. I still feel joy and excitement during this month, but accompanied with these emotions has come reflection. A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday, and of course, it was celebrated with the fanfare one would expect for such a milestone. Even with the celebrating, I spent a significant amount of time to myself, thinking about where I was, the company I was with, and the influences on my life to this point.
The summer after my freshman year at NC State, I was awarded a grant to spend five weeks in Haiti, through the Park Scholarships. In the grant I explained that I wanted to gain experience in the administration of healthcare in a developing country, but to also experience significant cultural immersion in my father’s country of birth. My aunt at the time was still living in Haiti, and assisted with my in-country arrangements. My family accompanied me for the first week, and my father spent an additional week in the country before returning to North Carolina. The last three weeks of my time in Haiti I spent learning, intensively. The experience I gained from the hospital was tremendous, but the wealth of knowledge I gained from my aunt was priceless.
My aunt and I spent countless hours talking about my life and hers, the places she’d traveled, the people she met, the beauty in simplicity, and what is important in our lives. We began to discuss my next visit to Haiti and how to establish a sustainable trip for students who are interested in the experience. Unfortunately, this would never come to fruition. My aunt passed away the following March, the day after my birthday and two days before hers, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. With my aunt’s passing came reflection and insight. The importance of love, to not take people for granted, and to crystallize the relationships I have while also fostering new ones, gradually came to me as integral parts of life. I thought of my maternal grandmother, who was present at each of her grandchildren’s births, and has never missed a birthday since, my paternal grandmother whose mannerisms and love I remember to this day, and my mother who reminded me just today that she “never misses a beat.” These relationships have played a powerful role in my growth, and continue to shape my life.
In recognition of Women’s History Month on this last day of March 2015, I celebrate these women. Their impact on me has yet to be fully realized, but it is already significant. The love I have for them is overwhelming, and I am thankful for that.
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