This was a tough lap. But I learned a lesson that I’ll undoubtedly keep coming back to during my MW Marathon.
Since the turn of the last calendar page, I’ve been gearing up for the Stage 1 seminar. As newbies, this will be our first official foray into the MW program with several days filled with mock exams, tastings and panel discussions. Other S1 seminars around the world have been postponed due to Covid, but the North America seminar (in my beloved Washington state!) is going forward. It also sounds like our S1 assessment exam (originally scheduled for early June) will be delayed as well.
We’ve also been given our first assignments! (yes, that’s an exclamation point because I am genuinely excited about them!) These aren’t mandatory per se, but based on what I hear through the grapevine these assignments can be taken into account in determining whether a S1 student is ready to move onto Stage 2. The assignments are excellent exam practice and we’ll receive feedback from MWs . . . better to find out early on where you’re going wrong, right? Plus, the assignments are part of the S1 program fees – so we’ve already paid for them. Barring an emergency, why the hell wouldn’t I take the time to do them?!
I was mid-way through completing an assignment when I received a text that my Dad was going into hospice care. (I tried to come up with a smoother segue for this, but there really isn’t any). He’d had a recent bout with pneumonia and had been in the hospital for a few days. At 90, we all knew that bouncing back would be a struggle, but many in my family were optimistic. Including me.
Reality set in with that text.
After going on a walk with Hubs to calm down so I could make some clear headed decisions, I came back home and booked my flight to Washington state leaving the next day. I needed to pack for several days of cold weather, notify family and friends of my flight arrangements, and cancel appointments for the week. But instead of frantically tackling these things, I sat down at my desk and finished that assignment. Obviously, my brain was not in the best space, but I wanted to complete it. And I knew my Dad would encourage me to finish it . . . he’s been like that ever since I can remember.
Growing up, he constantly told me I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to. And I know it frustrated the crap out of him when I didn’t give something my best effort (like the D+ in 7th grade science.) I’ve never been a Sheldon Cooper, but I’m intelligent enough and fiercely determined. Which, much to my metallurgical engineer Dad’s dismay, was never in the science realm. So even with everything else going on that day – I finished my MW assignment because I wanted to give it my best effort.
Last September, I visited my Dad shortly after being accepted in the MW program. I explained to him what the next several years would entail for me, but he wasn’t fully able to process the magnitude of this program. However, as a lifelong amateur astronomer, he DID understand that more people have gone into space than have become MWs!
This time, I brought along my MW study materials and trusty laptop because I knew I’d have a lot of downtime. But I never touched them. Although I did have a lot of downtime, what I didn’t have was focus. I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything other than what was going on with my Dad. So, I sat with him. Talked to him. Held his hand. Gathered around him with family telling stories and sharing memories.
After being up in my hometown for nearly a week, I mentioned my “lack of focus” in an email to my business partner and amazing friend, Amber. Her response to me was:
Noelle, you are focusing. You are focusing where your head and heart are and that is with your dad and family. Don’t beat yourself up over a distraction. We live in a world of distraction, every day of our lives. It’s okay to set that aside now. You are exactly where you should be and all your brainpower is exactly where you need it to be.
After reading her reply, I knew she was right (as usual!). So instead of plowing through the rest of my emails that morning, I opted to head upstairs to see my Dad.
His room was quiet and peaceful and the morning sunlight had just started to peek in through the windows. My wonderful stepmom was with the night nurse standing by his bedside. I joined them and with our hands all resting on him, we chatted about how he was doing. We noticed his breathing getting quite slow and then – it just stopped.
Had I taken the time to read through my emails, I probably wouldn’t have been there for his last moments.
While my Dad wasn’t able to communicate very well during his final days, he knew I was there with him. I have no regrets that I spent hours sitting with this wonderful man as opposed to cracking open my studies. There will always be time to study, but I will never get time back with my Dad. I’m so thankful that I focused on what was important for those days.
The MW program is a priority for me and will be for the next several years. But it won’t always be my main focus. Maybe this attitude will be my downfall, but maybe it will help me succeed. In any case, I will give the program my best effort. For my Dad – and for myself.