After Decades of Addiction, Student Graduates at 56: ‘This One’s For You, Mom!’ Arnita Mock-Harris' mom didn't live to see Commencement, but had strong faith her daughter would escape addiction

As a child, Arnita Mock-Harris resented her mother for being a single parent. She wanted a dad and a family life like the ones she read about in storybooks, and blamed her mother for failing to make that happen.

“I was a child– what did I know?” asked Mock-Harris, 56, now a mother of two and grandmother of four, who is graduating from National Louis University with a B.S. in Health Care Leadership.

“I did not understand the challenges my mom and dad faced, and why should I? In the era I grew up in, children knew nothing of their father’s and mother’s personal business.

“So I took off in the opposite direction than what my mom had planned for me. For many, many years I lived in turmoil,” she said.

Mock-Harris left high school in junior year, and lived a life of drug addiction from about age 21 to  48. From time to time, she would get decent jobs, but the addiction sapped her ability to keep them.

Throughout those grim 27 years, Mock-Harris’ mother used her strong faith in God to hold the belief her daughter would come around.

“My mom cried many nights worrying about her baby and that I would die out there in the horror of my addictions,” Mock-Harris observed.  “She never stopped praying nor believing that I would someday be okay. Her constant belief that I would be okay has been the catalytic force that’s got me where I am today.”

There was another thing, too. Even though Mock-Harris had struggled with learning difficulties in school, she always yearned for more education, “because I conditioned my mind in the midst of all the fog to believe I would get my life together one sweet day and become a functional member of society.”

The balance started to shift when Mock-Harris’ mother was diagnosed with diabetes and became progressively more ill, complaining for years of stomach pain. Mock-Harris moved in with her in 2007 and helped manage her medical care.

“She was in Stage 4 of pancreatic cancer when the doctors finally found out that it wasn’t a bad case of gas,” Mock-Harris recalls with sorrow. “That’s why she was having so much stomach discomfort for so many years– it was cancer.”

It was devastating news for her mom’s younger sisters, and for Mock-Harris’ younger siblings. But for Mock-Harris, there was also a blow of guilt.

“No matter how badly I was trashing my life all along, my mom did not give up on me. In fact she believed it was her prayers that saved me from dying in the horrors of my addiction,” Mock-Harris recalled.

“What made me feel the worst I have ever felt is that my prayers could not do the same thing for her.”

She gets a measure of peace knowing that she and her mom had a stretch of time when she was helping with her mom’s medical care and her mom was cheering her on as she embarked–at age 51–on her bachelor’s degree at National Louis.

Now, five years later, she is receiving her diploma, plans to work in the health care leadership field, and pursue graduate education–with her eye on a doctoral degree as the ultimate prize.

“As my mom’s oldest daughter, I could not be any prouder or happier than I am right now,” Mock-Harris said.

“Although mom is no longer with me, I know she is proud of me and is smiling from heaven with such unexplained joy! I know dad is proud of me too. But mom, oh my dear mom, this one is for you!”