In Memoriam

My mentor and friend, Hazel Dicken-Garcia, died last night after a long health struggle.

I haven’t had the words today to fully articulate this loss. I miss her in the way I miss my grandmother; in many ways, Hazel filled that role in my life since Elsie’s passing in 2001. I haven’t been to see her in a few years, as life got in the way of my ability to just jump and go to the Cities. And while I knew she was unwell, the news itself was a bit of a shock.

I will need to spend some time thinking about what I want to say here. She was an amazing teacher, friend, mentor. She was the sort of person who truly invested in her students. Years after I finished my work under her tutelage, I knew I could email or call for advice, a sounding board, or simple reassurance.

And as is the case with all good teachers, her impact resonates not only through my work, but through the work of countless others who remember her teachings and honor her legacy.

I honored her today by doing my job. I submitted a paper today. And a research grant. And I taught a class. I carry on in her name.

But the hole in my heart cannot be filled by another. Goodbye, Hazel.

And so we commence…

I watched fifty mass media majors cross the stage at graduation this morning, and I felt proud and happy. This is the first class to graduate substantially under my leadership as chair, and it gave me a bit of a jolt to see my name on the program above theirs.

It made me think about beginnings, and endings, and mentorship.

This ceremony was also the last to be officially attended by my good friend and colleague, Mavis Richardson. I left her with a selfie, a hug, and a promise to go and get coffee during her retirement. An ending? A beginning?

It made me think about the importance of ceremony to mark such things.

I advise all of my students to take part in the graduation ceremonies to which they’re entitled. They’ve earned the right. But more than that, the ceremony marks the transition. It marks the end of one thing, and the beginning of another. It gives one time to reflect, a day to remember, and a specific moment to point to and say, “I did that. I achieved that. What’s next?”

It made me think about my own transitions.

Life has been challenging the last few years. I took over leadership of the department. I became a late-in-life parent to two tiny girls. I broke my leg. But I also achieved some things. I published a book and another book chapter. I achieved promotion to Professor. I was awarded a sabbatical. And this coming sabbatical year marks a transition for me, too. To what will I aspire as my career moves forward? What’s next? How can I help these little girls be their very best selves as they grow? What’s best?

And so, we commence. Through this transition, to the next, with ceremony, closure, and eyes on the horizon.