“Us. All regrets, left them in the sea, smiling at life as if it was a beautiful dream, because if one thing is certain, clearing the strange foreign steam. Like the diamond ring that fits in your finger, we are stronger as a steel linker”
― Lucia Ohanian
Just two years ago, I was getting ready to walk down the aisle to finally “marry” the love of my life in a ceremonial manner. Many years before then, we were young, had little to no money, and had our first “wedding” in a courthouse on Maui. I wore capris and a green top, held a yellow flower in my hand, and bubbled with a tearful mixture of happiness and loneliness. Weddings were meant to be celebrated with family, and at the time, I didn’t feel like I had mine. I was 19, in love, but lonely for the family I ran away from.
We vowed that someday we would have a ceremony, but then plans changed and we had two amazing children… and well, let’s just say we went from having little money to relying on social services. But our love, wow… we had grown exponentially in our love (and frustrations), but the love… that’s what really mattered. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the joys and tribulations of motherhood. As the years went on, I told myself that the wedding didn’t matter anyhow… I had always felt uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating events and occasions that involved bringing “families together.” I wasn’t sure who would be there for me — if I could rely on them to follow through.
Somewhere in my late 20’s, I learned to shake the insecurity of not being “somebody’s daughter,” and embraced being myself… being Diana. When my wedding day came two years ago, I finally understood the meaning of true celebration of our lives… of my life, my soul, and what I was giving to my husband — myself, Diana. It was a beautiful ceremony and gathering of close friends and family. I wish I could say my parents were there, but for various reasons of the heart, they weren’t and my Dad couldn’t.
That day I learned what it meant to truly accept who I am, and where I came from. The feelings of being wanted, loved, and being “somebody’s daughter” are inherently natural. I told my husband that I wanted to see my Dad that night, how important it was for me to see him, and for him to see me. I can’t even begin to express how challenging it has been to compartmentalize my feelings and the reality of the circumstances that could easily have pushed me over the edge.
That night, after our ceremony was over… we detoured towards the area where my Dad would sleep. I prayed that he would be there, even though I knew how hard it would be for me to see him. As we drove down the street, I quickly patted my husband’s arm and said, “He’s there, he’s there. Stop the car.”
Still in my gown, I opened the door and rushed towards him with a flower in my hand. I wanted him to see me, to see his oldest’s daughter on her wedding night. I wanted to share in celebration with him, even if it meant that it would be painful… even if it would mean I would suffer from the heartbreak of not having him in a better place. When he looked up at me, he smiled. He recognized me. I cried in relief that he would at least be able to share that moment with me, to look into my eyes and be proud of this milestone.
This is who I am, this is me, Diana.
And here I am. Here we are. My Dad, as you know, is doing much better now. He climbed his Mount Everest, faced and endured his demons, and was able to find some solace in the hope of a better future.
In less than two days, I will be walking down a different aisle. I will be walking down an aisle with my classmates, my family, a handful of whom were there that on my wedding night; we will all be walking to receive our diplomas as the graduates of the William S. Richardson School of Law Class of 2016. And the best part is, I will not only walk with the feeling of finally being “somebody’s daughter,” but also… a wife, a mother, a daughter-in-law, a grand-daughter, a sister, and a soon-to-be aunt.
Celebration is only as sweet as the hardships we endured to get there.
This Sunday, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot running through my mind and heart. My mind is already drifting back to the men of “The Forest,” who encouraged me to take the risk of walking into the ivory tower, to learn how to help people on the streets… to go beyond my photography, and gain an understanding of the system in hopes of finding creative solutions. They believed that I wouldn’t change, that I would only grow. And they were right. I’m reminded of the friends who are no longer with us, but are watching from above and proud that I didn’t quit. And lastly, I see the faces of my husband, my boys, my Dad, and other family and friends… which includes the ones who can be there, and the ones that can’t.
I am grateful. In ways that are deeper than I can express. I feel it, though. And I hope you can, too. Sending you lots of love, Mom… wherever you are. And lots of love to “HL”, too. If you are reading this, come if you can — be part of this journey.