Ashley huddled on her bed. Her stomach felt like a small army of elephants had invaded, stomping and snorting through her bowels. The plans to go to her daughter’s high school graduation had been set into motion eighteen years ago. Focusing on her latest mantra eased her tense muscles. “It’s no big deal.” The words left her lips as she clutched her knees to her chest and rocked back, then forward. Mindlessly, she tried to soothe the panic welling up inside her by scratching her arms. As her nails bit into her flesh, deep gouges appeared.
She stopped when she noticed the blood dripping from her arms. Heaving a sigh, she busied herself with washing the wounds. She took her time, while begging her mind for an excuse to not think about what she must do today. Her heart rate quickened as she pictured herself suddenly breaking down in public, rocking and ripping her hair out as everyone stared. But she had to go. There was no reasonable excuse to miss her daughter’s graduation.
Except one. She was terrified of leaving her house. She shook her head, desperately trying to shake some common sense into her brain. “There is nothing to fear.” She uttered it softly at first, but then repeated it, getting louder with each syllable.
Forcing herself to look in the mirror, she stood on trembling legs. She gasped at the bags under her eyes and her splotchy face. Once more, tears crept down her face. Could she really take this chance? Her heart ached at the thought of missing her daughter walk across the stage to accept her diploma.
She looked longingly at her bed. Oh, what a delight it would be to burrow under the covers and hide from the fears that tormented her every waking moment. A knock on the door jolted her back into reality. She turned her head to see her daughter walk in.
“Hey, Mom, I’m going to leave now because I need to get to school early, okay?” Bailey looked beautiful. Her make-up had been applied with great care. She smiled at her mom and walked over and gave her a huge bear hug. “It’s because of you, Mom. You’re the reason I’m graduating and going off to college. You taught me well, you didn’t allow me let my fears hold me back. Today, I need you there, cheering me on into the real world. I know you can do it. You've overcome bigger obstacles.”
Tears welled up in Ashley’s eyes once more. However, this time they were tears of joy. “One step at a time, right?”
Bailey nodded. “That’s what you always taught me. Whenever I was afraid and didn’t want to do something, you’d repeat Grandma’s favorite saying, ‘Keep your chin up and your eyes on the Lord.’ You can do this, Mom. First, just get dressed, right?”
Ashley smiled at her beautiful daughter, standing there with her cap and gown over her arms. Oh, what a wonderful daughter we raised. Maybe I didn’t mess up too much after all. “Then all I have to do is brush my teeth and fix my hair, right?” Ashley’s voice trembled slightly.
Smiling, Bailey hugged her, tears of joy plopped down both faces. “Dad’ll be waiting at the door when you’re ready. Then all you have to do is walk to the car. No biggie, right?”
“One step at a time; I can do that. Now scoot before you’re late.” Ashley kissed her daughter then gently pushed her to the door.
Bailey raised her right eyebrow. “You’ll be in the front row waiting?”
“Not even the worst case of agoraphobia will keep me from seeing you walk across the stage. I promise.”
“Remember, there is nothing to fear. Jesus will walk beside you every step of the way.”
Soon, Ashley put her hand on the kitchen door while her husband, Bryce, stood beside her. “You can do it.” He started singing off-key. “You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”
As they entered the school auditorium, Bryce squeezed Ashley’s hand. “Congratulations, you took a chance and I know you were terrified to leave the house, but honey, you did it. You did it!”
Holding her head high, Ashley walked to the front row and took her seat. When the band started playing Pomp and Circumstance, she leaned over and whispered, “Looks like it’s Graduation Day for both of us.”
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