By Joanna Nakamoto • January 05, 2017•Writers in Residence
On February 1, 2013, I woke up the same way I had in the past five years, as a wife. But three hours later I became a widow and a single-mother of two children. It was a double whammy that morning. At 7:00 am I discovered an email message between my late husband and one of his female co-workers. Infidelity. By 10:00 am that same morning he had taken his own life. It felt like a very deep, trembling shockwave ruptured my heart from the inside. Aside from my mother’s passing, I had never felt such a paralyzing blow before. But with my mother, hospice lingered for over 14 days, so I had plenty of time to make peace with it. Here, he was gone within three hours and I never expressed a proper goodbye. I cried. I lost sleep and nearly 30 lbs. in a little over a month.
If it weren't for the amazing support of my family, my children, in-laws, and friends, I’m not sure how I would have ever moved past his death and on with my life. I distinctly remember the day I decided it was time to pick up the pieces and put things back together. For a couple of weeks after his passing, my children stayed with various family members who took it upon themselves to relieve me of my momma duties during that difficult time. It was the first day that we spent together just the three of us: my four-year-old son, my one-year-old daughter, and me. I had just finished ushering the last of my guests out the door. I then collapsed on the living room sofa exhausted from all of the family visits, funeral preparations, crying, sobbing, blaming, anger, and pain. My soul was depleted and my body was spent. In that moment, a small hand rubbed my back and a small voice said. “Are you okay, Mama? It’s okay Mama,” then another tiny hand began patting my head gently. What a powerful moment for me. My children graciously showed me the most gentle love and compassion that I had ever known. Like a gentle breeze that slowly puffs up a sail, I realized that I was their sole surviving parent. I could not fail them.
At the time my husband passed away, I was in my last semester of undergrad working towards finishing a bachelor’s degree. We were only two weeks into the semester when it all went down and I had to take a month off to recover. So I cleaned myself up, made a new plan and resumed my undergrad classes. By the grace of God, I finally finished a 10-year journey and got my bachelor’s degree. Two months after that, I took the LSAT. By the end of that same year I applied and got accepted into law school. To put this all in perspective, I received a bachelor’s degree, became a widow, a single-mother, took the LSAT, and got accepted into law school all in the same year.
Although this story goes much deeper, I am not alone. My highest hope is that whoever is reading this will understand the power of perseverance if they are facing adversity. I hope to gather more stories about other women who have faced similar or other adverse circumstances either entering or going through law school. I myself don’t doubt that I come from a strong line of women, but as I meet new people I’ve come to think that women in general are just tough as nails. Galvanized or manicured…take your pick.