Just Sayin’ – Mourning and Dancing: Reflections on my Last Semester

By Alex Hentschel

I had a sudden realization as I headed to my capstone research course on Tuesday morning: This is it, my last semester of undergrad. As anxious as I am for the new season of my life to begin, it caused some hard reflection as I realized that my time as a bachelor student — who isn’t expected to have everything, or rather, anything, figured out — is coming to a rapid close. Before I know it, I’ll be packing up our small house and leaving this tiny town, maybe forever. (Melodramatic, right?)

There are so many things that are about to change in my life. A mere two weeks after I walk across the stage to receive my diploma, I will be walking down the aisle to … receive my husband? (ha, parallelism is hard). Right now, I am in the process of applying to law schools, and by then I might just have paid my admission deposit. We will probably be moving across the country. In many ways, my adult life is about to begin.

However, if I hadn’t gone through four years of growth in college, I wouldn’t be ready to start anything at all. I remember crying the day before we were going to drive to Cedarville, nervous that this new stage of my life would be confusing, lonely and difficult. It absolutely was all three of those things. It was the most tumultuous time. It was also hilarious, encouraging and extraordinary.

I went from a scared freshman who had a nervous breakdown after auditioning for the debate team (I had never debated in my life and it went terribly) to becoming one of the team’s varsity captains. I also fell in love with the previous captain, and this summer, he asked me to be his wife. (I promise, this is not an ad for Cedarville Debate, unless you want it to be.) I went from wondering how on earth I was going to pay for Cedarville to extreme gratitude for all the extra help I have received along the way, from the Lord and from those He put in my life. I went from being hesitant about a difficult major to adding another major and five minors. (I’m pretty indecisive — I guess nothing changed there.) I traveled to four continents — and when I was done, I went from wanting to live all over the world to wanting to stay right here and work toward justice in some of America’s institutional and legal systems. I went from being lonely to being surrounded by hilarious and genuine people who pushed me to think through my ideology and my faith.

It wasn’t all easy, though. About two months ago, I had an unexpected loss. My grandmother who raised me passed away very rapidly, and at a young age, due to metastatic breast cancer. Now, as we plan for the future, we have to swallow sudden waves of grief realizing that she can’t clap for me at my graduation at the school she helped me pay for; she can’t have a special seat with her place marker and a flower at my wedding.

Several of the people who I became really close to over the years moved away — to pursue their dreams across the country or across the world. There were seasons of switches in who I spent time with, leading to more loneliness — I remember vividly crying in my dorm room on a Friday night because I felt like there was no one on campus left to talk to. Some of my favorite professors are gone. As you grow from freshman to senior, sometimes your friends change, and people change. It’s all a part of the process. As Sleeping at Last said in my song on his Enneagram album (lucky #7): “It costs farewell tears for a welcome home parade.” As the writer of Ecclesiastes said far more eloquently: there is a season for each thing under the sun. Even through the blessings in my life there has been pain and confusion. There are seasons of mourning and seasons of dancing, and there are seasons in the in-between.

Whether you’re graduating or not, a college student or not, this coming decade will change each of us and bring us through hills and valleys. Let us remember through uncertainty that He is faithful. I know that’s a phrase people toss around a lot, but the Lord’s faithfulness doesn’t mean that everything will be all sunshine and roses — it means that He will be there when it is and when it is not. He was there on top of the Pennybacker Bridge Overlook where my fiancé proposed to me — and He was there as I stood in front of my grandmother’s casket last month and choked my way through a eulogy.

There is no other who will always be there. If He is there — we can do this.

Alex Hentschel is a senior International Studies and Spanish double major and the off-campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys sociology, black coffee, and honest debate, preferably all at once.

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