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Some of you may know this already, but for those who don’t: When I was 13, my father died of cancer, caused by agent orange exposure during his service in the Vietnam War. During his illness and after his death, my family was financially devastated by medical bills and various other money problems, which at one point meant that the threat of bankruptcy was floating over our heads. My mother had, during dad’s healthy years, depended on him as the breadwinner, and had no college, professional, or any other type of working experience which could land her a well-paying job, so she took up four separate jobs (Waitressing, hotel cleaning/inspection, hotel room management, and retail) to compensate for our financial difficulties. My sister and I helped pay for our tuition at our expensive private school by doing cafeteria and classroom cleaning during our lunch and recess. But it looked like all our hopes for college were dashed by Dad’s death and the ensuring financial woes.

The reason I am in university today is due not just to scholarships, federal subsidized loans, work-study, and savings from my summer jobs. It’s because after Dad died, his friends rose magnificently to our aid. They raised over ten thousand dollars, to be shared between myself and my sister, for our college money. I’ve used a bit of it every year (It would have gone a lot farther if I’d been smart and gone to a Canadian university immediately, but hindsight is 20-20) to pay for college, and though it’s almost all out, there will now still be enough to help pay for my master’s degree and my Juris Doctor.

I am still a firm believer in hand-written thank-you letters, and sent one out to each and every person who helped me and my sister (A student at U of Washington) get to college when all hope seemed lost. But now that I am close to my master’s, and will be finished with school entirely in 3-5 years, I’m thinking again of their kind gift, and wondering how I can best thank them again, once the true extent of their gift has been realized in my graduation with my J.D from UVic.

I’ve been thinking of writing another thank-you letter to each of them, but it doesn’t seem enough. Any ideas as to how I can honour these people who helped make my dreams come true during the most difficult and heartbreaking time in my life?

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