By Cassidy Cray (Delta Chi, William Woods University)
Content warning: parental loss
September 15, 2021 was officially the worst day of my life. To lose your parent is one thing, but to lose your sole parent very suddenly while surrounded by strangers, with your family two states away, is a living hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I was lost and broken, but I had a mission to fulfill.
I made three main phone calls that night. One to each of my two best friends back home, and one to my big sister, Braedyn. Within the hour, I found myself in the embrace of Braedyn and my Alpha Chi sisters, who came to pick me up from the hospital when I was too devastated to drive. The next 24 hours are ones I’ll never forget as I fought like hell to push my feelings aside and make the necessary travel and funeral arrangements. I just had to make it five days. Five days before I could travel home with my mother’s ashes to be with my family.
Braedyn was the biggest blessing of my life during this time. She canceled work, classes and plans with her now-husband to sit with me and help me knock out the endless list of things I had to do before I could take my mom home, while also providing me with a safe space to grieve. She wasn’t the only one either. My Alpha Chi sisters took turns sitting with me and checking in on me during those days while I took sanctuary in the house, hiding my very raw grief from the eyes of our small and all-knowing campus community. In the weeks and months that followed, it was my Alpha Chi sisters who continuously lifted me up and encouraged me to keep moving forward when everything seemed too much, too heavy, too unbelievably impossible.
Before I knew it, Christmas had come and gone. By New Year’s I had lost my childhood home and found myself the legal definition of homeless. As the start of a new college semester loomed overhead, I realized just how much I was drowning. I was a grieving and broken 21-year-old with no financial support, no parental support and no place to call home. I was genuinely scared that I would have to drop out of college and couch hop with friends until I landed on my feet in some dead-end part-time job. However, I knew that wasn’t an option. From an early age my mother had instilled in me that I could do anything with my life so long as I got a bachelor’s degree. At the time I was a junior in college. Too close to give up. So, I started to reach out for help.
My chapter advisor was the one who told me to apply for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation’s member assistance grant when I didn’t think I qualified. I had convinced myself that surely there were others in greater need of help than myself. Thankfully, I was wrong and after much hesitation, I sat down and filled out the forms. Within hours of submitting my application, I received the notice that it had been granted, and I broke down crying right then and there. I had enough money for food, housing and the remainder of my tuition not already covered by scholarship that year. Most importantly, I had enough to survive.
It’s now been over a year since Mom passed away. I am currently in my senior year and the countdown to graduation has begun. And with the lifelong goal she instilled in me creeping closer to completion, I find myself an entirely new person. I have been strengthened, empowered and renewed by my experiences and the women that have surrounded me, taught me and inspired me throughout my time as a collegiate sister. There will never be enough words to express the amount of love or gratitude in my heart for my sisters and this sorority that have given me so much during a time where I had so little. If I have learned anything in this past year, it is what it truly means to be a member of Alpha Chi Omega. This bond is a blessing of the highest order.