Remembering my mother, who helped me choose the Hall
February 2007. I’m an eager senior in high school who recently got accepted to Seton Hall University. Being that I’m from Florida and had never stepped foot in the state of New Jersey, we scheduled a trip up north to check it out. I first learned of Seton Hall at a college fair in Tampa that I attended when I was a high school sophomore. My family went mostly for my older brother who was a junior at the time, but I tagged along.
At their information table, the rep told us of a beautiful campus located a mere 16 miles from New York City. My eyes lit up and my father seemed interested, though my mother’s response was much less enthusiastic. “No way in the world is my baby being set loose so far away in New York.”
It was my mother who made that first trip up to New Jersey with me. A native of the Detroit area, she laughed at me as we were driving and upon seeing a snow plow I exclaimed “Oh, look! A snow-pusher!”
We were toured around, met with some folks from The Setonian and WSOU (which ended up becoming a huge part of my academic life) and we were sold. The two of us went into the city to celebrate and when we returned home, I enrolled.
I became really involved my freshman year, and of course, there were pivotal milestones for me. On move-in day I met my boyfriend Johnny, who became my best friend and to this day still is (cliché, yes, but cut me some slack in my senior column). During the first snow fall of the year, he taught me how to properly make mean snowball so I could hold my own in the snowball fight that ensued. Basketball season rolled around, I made great relationships, I was pleased with my grades and I loved going into Manhattan. I would call my mom and report everything; her excitement was unwavering.
Soon after I returned home for summer break, the worst and last thing I could have imagined happened: she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Though her prognosis hit like a ton of bricks, my family and I did our best to stay strong. The strongest of us all, my mother underwent chemotherapy for about six months.
After a difficult summer, I entered into sophomore year as optimistic as I could. Her condition took a turn for the worse in November and my dad immediately booked me a flight home on a Tuesday. She was put into a hospice facility, and had lost the ability to speak by the time I got there, but I will never forget the look on her face when she saw me walk in. My family and I had some very special moments with her through her last days, for which I am endlessly grateful. Johnny flew down as well for comfort and had to bid farewell to a woman he had met only on two occasions. We were all able to say our goodbyes, and she passed that Friday.
My brother and I gave the eulogy at the funeral four days later, and heartbroken, Johnny and I flew back up to Seton Hall the same day. Mustering the motivation to go to class seemed impossible, but three people in particular made the transition bearable for me.
Monsignor Liddy, Dr. Kelly Shea and Professor John Wargacki organized a memorial service in my mother’s honor for my close friends and classmates. It was held in the Xavier chapel and attended by over 30 amazing people; it served as my first true sign of happiness following her death and from there I gradually became better.
I still think of my mom when I drive through the front gate of this school. I think of how excited we were together back in the February of 2007. Seton Hall was the only non-Florida school I even applied to, and she played such a big part in my coming here, although I still find it ironic and somewhat amusing due to her initial reluctance.
When something exciting happens – and plenty of exciting things have happened in my four years here – I still wish more than anything that I could pick up the phone and call her. I know in my heart that she just knows. I can feel it. I wrote this column not for sympathy or out of sadness, but to celebrate the beautiful person that she was inside and out and to pay tribute to her hand in leading me to such an incredible future. It will never, ever be forgotten.
Gabrielle Kiger is a senior journalism major from Vero Beach, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.