After 22 years, hope finally hits home at UF

By Abbey Nickel
@abbeynickel

For the last 22 years, I have constantly wondered why my mother chose “Hope” for my middle name.

Why not something cliché and basic?  Why not her maiden name, why not my grandmother’s middle name?

I love having a middle name that has significance.  But I have also a lot of time wondering why it was chosen for me.

But now, less than a month away from graduating, I think I know why.

Many of you reading this know my mother passed away a little over a month ago.  I’m not going to write 700 words detailing my grief over the last month, or the just how broken my heart was and still is.  We all know that loss hurts, and we all know that grief never truly ends. We just learn how to cope with the pain and the absence of that person.

When we’re little with no responsibilities and find ourselves crawling into our parents’ beds when we wake up scared, we realize our biggest fear is not the monsters that scare us in our dreams, but rather losing the people that chase them away for us.  We think our parents are these invincible creatures that will outlive us, and we’ll never have to face a day without them.

But suddenly, when the day comes when we have to live without them, nothing can prepare you for the pain that comes afterward.

It comes in crashing waves. One day, I’ll be carrying on with my day to day activities without any issues. The next, I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed.

But the good news is we all have something that can get us through the pain and the days that leave us feeling heavy and crushed in spirit: Hope.

In the days leading up to my mom’s death and the days immediately following,  I was reminded by several different people that if there’s anything I needed to hold onto, it was hope.  Hope that better days were coming, hope that the pain would eventually lessen, and hope that beauty would come from tragedy.

In the middle of it all, it’s hard to take those words to heart. It’s hard to listen to people who tell you “you just need to have hope that better days are coming,” because at that very second, it seems unimaginable that better days are ahead.

At that very second, it feels like your entire world is crashing down around you. And for those who have faced loss, I’m sure you can relate. I had anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness overflowing inside of me – where could I find hope in all of that?

But it didn’t take long until hope found its way to me. I never had to search for it. From the phone calls, messages, cards, hugs, and even comforting smiles and words that let me know that I wasn’t alone in this journey, and never will be – I had found my hope.

To be specific, I found hope in the people around me here at the University of Findlay.

I soon found myself surrounded by people who graciously poured out their love and support and are still continuing to do so. At times, I’ve found myself moved to tears by the support I’ve received from the family I’ve created here at UF.

Sometimes I’m not very good at verbalizing my gratitude or appreciation. So for those that read this, I hope you know how grateful I am for you. I hope you know what every act of kindness means to me, even if it’s a smile and a friendly hello from across a classroom.

I know that I’m not alone, and I never have been. And even after I walk across the stage on May 2, I know that the love and support I have here won’t come to an end. I’ve found a permanent safe haven at UF, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Words will never properly describe my gratitude, but I can try my best.

While I had something very near to my heart taken away from me, I also had something given to me in return to help fill part of that void, and that was kind and compassionate people here at UF that helped me find strength even at my worst moments.

They have reminded me that even when I feel like I’m down to nothing, there are people around me willing to catch me and bring me back to my feet. They have reminded me that sometimes, it’s OK to not be OK. They have reminded me that through the hurt, we can always find hope in the end.

My mother gave me a lot of gifts over the years: A love for journalism, a love for education, and a love for people.

But as it turns out, the best gift of all was my middle name.

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