Grace of a Girl - Part 5: Leap of Faith and Graduation I

Part 4.

[Author's note: Well, this ended up being really long, so a la Harry Potter, I decided to split it up into two posts. Just more for you!]

Two days before my sister graduated, she had a breakdown of sorts. This school didn't make her perfect. But we knew that - and don't expect perfection. We just wanted our sister/daughter back to her loving self. It was time to do school, but my sister felt she needed to prep for graduation, and wanted to get ready. She felt the staff's expectations for her to be prepared were unrealistic. So she was typing... but not doing the scheduled activity. Oops. Staff said go to school or go to regroup. After 40 minutes, they threatened escort. When they tried, my sister wasn't having it. She shoved the staff away. They wrestled, and two of them tried to get her into a hold, but they were newer staff with less experience, and couldn't manage. Finally, they brought in a more experienced staff and he took her to the ground in a couple of seconds. When my sister had a second to breathe and clear her head in the hold, she broke down crying and just sobbed. The stress of graduating had gotten to her and she didn't know what had gotten into her. She cried and cried and cried, it was all so much.


And then it was here. My sister was GRADUATING from calo! We were so excited. And by "we" I mean ALL of us. Like, all TEN, all of us. We gathered from THREE different states to support my sister and show how proud we were of her! Now THAT'S family!

I had to fly in the night before this time to meet up with my parent's early plane. But that was fine with me. Gave me an excuse to get Dice to come down and see me from all the way over in Lee's Summit (which is like 4 hours away). So while I was on a plane, she was on a train and we met in the middle! Squee! It was FREEZING cold. Like seriously, who turned off the heat and bought popsicles cold.

So once we were together, we went to tour Downtown St. Louis. Cuz I live in downtown Salt Lake and there's TONS to do! Tons!!!

Apparently St. Louie didn't get that memo. I mean it was like 6pm, and the place was CLOSED. Dead! Everything. We tried to ask people where we could go to shop... because downtown HAS to have malls right? RIIIIIIIIGHT?!!!? Fail, St. Louis. The one store we could find was a Macy's and it closed at SIX. SIX PM! That's absurd! What kind of downtown are we running people? So much for an economic and social hug. Pshh. We found an italian restaurant and ate yummy foods. Then we decided that St. Louis was pretty much the lamest thing since Twilight (which is so not a valid book, I'm not even going to italicize it), and we went back to the hotel. We got hot chocolate in the lobby and just talked. Then we went up to the room, plopped down in our separate beds and just talked. And maybe played Puzzle Quest 2 >.> Shhh. (Hey! I was only slightly addicted this time around! Way less than my first addiction.) We went to bed super late, but such is the way with friends who haven't seen each other in ages.

The next morning we had the hotel breakfast (way better than the hotel food I ate on my last trip here), then I sent Dice on her way to her train. I mucked around for a bit, showered, packed, and headed back to the airport to meet my parents and my Florida siblings. When they arrived the 4 boys went outside to toss a frisbee while the parents and my sister waited for their bags.

Then we piled into a shuttle to take us to the rental lot, where we met by my Big Bro and my sister-in-law who had come from Seattle. We got the rental (there's 10 of us!) which was a GIANT TANK VAN! Rawr. We all piled in and the 3-hour drive began.

With that many of us, there was alot of convo about books, movies, music, tech, etc., and not a whole lot of quiet, but none of us are complaining. I think some (maybe me included) may have tried to sleep, but I don't remember. 3-hour drives aren't generally the memorable part.

When we got close to the school we had to stop at the store to get the foods for my sister's graduation reception. With an army as big as my family, it was a quick 5-minute in and out, with the needed items divided among us. Someone get crackers, another water, mom goes to the deli for the meat and cheese tray, someone get candy, etc. Pretty funny. It was like a swarm of ninja Hulets.

We were late! Agh!!! (That's one of the reasons the grocery run needed to be so quick). We made it to the school about 15 minutes late.

When we walked in we were confronted with my sister 45 feet in the air, standing on a 4 inch beam. She was attempting what the CALOers call "The Leap of Faith." Her goal was a trapeze bar 5 feet away.

One problem: My sister is AFRAID of heights. She had tried to do the Leap a month or so earlier, and never managed to muster the courage. Eventually they just pushed her off (she had a harness and belayer, not to worry), and made her resolve to do it before she graduated.

So here we were. One last obstacle to face before it was all over. It was incredible to me how instantaneously I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. You could hear the fear and panic in my sister's voice, and I was right there with her. But with an underlying surge of confidence and hope. We're here sister, and we're rooting for you! We watched from the side for a while, staff and other students gathered around, with one counselor up on the bar with her for support.

Once of the first things we heard as we entered was the counselor talking to everyone that was there to watch and support her. He said the leap to that bar represented all her hopes and dreams; it represented success. These were things that had to be fought for, things that had to be wanted, and there would be a fight to get them. She had to wrestle fear and win. The things that matter, that we want, will not come to us; we must go out and seize them. She had to jump and grab that trapeze.

After he talked, he moved away from her, and she wasn't holding on to him anymore. After a few seconds, she said she needed him back, but instead of going to her, he asked why. She said, "I need to stabilize myself." His answer was, "You can stabilize yourself." "Please!" she cried in desperation, which made me choke up. The emotions were so strong. I was scared for her. She sounded completely frightened. The counselor said he would give her his hand but she had to look him in the eye, which she did. Then he said, "You say you're gonna fall. That's okay. The safety net is in place. From now on, it's okay to fall. As long as you have your support team. Today and for the rest of your life, falling is okay. You don't need to hold on to me. You can fall. You learn, you get back up. Falling is actually one of the best things that could happen to you. As long as everything is in place, it's okay to fall. You will be safe." She knew she had the harness, the carabiners, the belay system, JB was on the other end holding the rope. All these people were there supporting her - students, faculty, family... she could do this, and if she fell, that was fine too. She steadied herself.

Earlier on he'd announced she wanted our support by us counting out loud from 10 to 0 at which point on Zero she would jump. We did audible countdowns two or three times and everytime we got to zero, she wouldn't go. It was so frustrating, we all wanted so badly for her to succeed! At one point we even moved, over from the side where we'd come in, to in front of her and all held out our arms for her. We're here for you sis, we want you to make this, we will support you, come to us. It was incredibly moving.

Finally, she was ready. See the result here (sorry the quality isn't better - it's super compressed HD):

The emotions bubbled over in that moment to a gush of success, love, and appreciation. This was my sister and she could do anything she set her mind too. Overcome fears, jump and grab bars, achieve success. In that second, all was within her reach (and from here forward also). That is power, my friends.

After the successful leap, we adjourned to the Graduation room, and got hello hugs. Unfortunately(?), my sister had figured out we were coming, because she's too smart. She had gone in the room they had set up and counted out 10 chairs against the wall - and she knew we were all coming then. Stinker. :)

The graduation ceremony began with my sister officially adopting her dog, Toby. She got an official certificate saying she was trained to handle him, and then some of the students got up to talk about my sister and her impact on them. Then select Staff spoke about her and her influence on them. Many of them cried. Once my sister decided she would go for it, she opened up and let these people see her: vulnerable, hurting, trying her best to make changes and find herself.

I needed a box of tissues.

It only got worse from there when my parents got up to talk...

Stay tuned for the last installment! Part 6: Graduation II (The Difference) and Beyond


Becca said…
I know this is not at all the point of your post, but I totally loved that you refused to italicize Twilight! Hilarious!

Also, I'm very happy to hear about the progress your sister has made and the wonderful support your family is giving her. Sounds like it's been a learning and growing experience for everyone.

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