As I hung up the phone I sobbed. My heart was broken. For the first time in my life I did not know what to do.

I could not believe someone took a gun and murdered my child.

Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from Detective Bass from the Philadelphia Homicide Division, who said he had some leads on who may have killed my daughter. I didn’t know how to feel, so I sobbed.

That was four years ago. Today, I know my daughter, Tanisha Marie Finch, would be proud that her mother continued her education despite the obstacles I faced. Now I am a proud senior at Alvernia’s Philadelphia campus and look forward to graduation.

I’ve learned to remain focused and never let situations keep me down no matter how tragic they are, even in the face of my only daughter’s death. That’s because she will walk across that stage at graduation this December with me in love and spirit, for I am a true survivor.

Happily, I remember searching in April 2012 for a university whose program would accommodate my educational needs as well as my work schedule. As I sat on my bed, I began to search the internet for universities with evening hours.

I came across an Alvernia ad. I viewed the page and noticed the school colors, which I loved, and also noticed the location was just 10 minutes from my home and 40 minutes from my job. I was so elated!

Before I knew it, I was an Alvernia student! However, I was soon in for the shock of my life, and not prepared for what would both shatter my heart and give me courage.

With great joy, I can recollect receiving my first schedule, reading: Behavioral Health, Monday and Wednesday from 5:30-7:50 p.m. As I read the schedule, Tanisha called and said, “Guess what, mommy, I began classes at Alvernia on Tuesday, and I have class tomorrow.” I screamed, “Thank you, Lord; now tell me what your major is.” Tanisha replied, “Behavioral Health.”

We both screamed with joy. I told her, “I’m happy for you and proud of you.” She said, “I’m proud of you too, mom, for attempting to achieve your goals.” I began to cry with tears of joy.

My daughter said, “Mommy, don’t cry. This is huge for us because we can study together. You can teach me and I can teach you!” We laughed as we were both motivated and happy.

The funny thing is later that evening we saw each other while driving down a street near my home. We waved to each other and blew kisses, then quickly sang out loud a television theme song by Carol Burnett, “I’m so glad we had this time together.” We shouted in laughter as we passed each other. (I sang that song to her as a child when I had to leave her to go to work, and she remembered the words into adulthood.)

As nighttime approached, I remember feeling tired, so I went to bed early. I texted my daughter, “Good night.” Sometime that evening I received a call with the news: my only daughter had been shot.

Her father, her brother and I raced to the hospital to be by her side. I spoke with the doctor, who described Tanisha’s injury in great detail. I thought I was going to die. Everything in me went numb. I could not believe what the doctor was saying to us. I recall saying, “No, no, no, you are mistaken.”

I walked away and told them to stop talking to me. The funny thing is in my heart I knew what the doctor was saying about the injuries was true. I kept hearing the doctor’s voice over and over. He said, “You have to make the decision whether you want to keep her on the ventilator.”

After hours of pacing, crying, moaning and yelling, I gave the okay to turn off the life support systems that were keeping her alive. I know my baby would not have wanted to live that way. She was full of life and loved to smile, dance and help people.

I remember later speaking with Christina Dennis, Tracey Marino and my instructors at Alvernia. I recall saying, “My daughter was murdered yesterday and I won’t be able to make it to class.” Their first response was, “I’m sorry for your loss, and please let us know what we can do for you.”

I said, “Just give me some time and I will be there. I need to complete my degree. My daughter is proud of me and I’m raising the two children she left behind.” They appeared amazed and agreed to let me work at my own pace while dealing with this life-altering tragedy.

Everyone around me had comforting words. However, no one really knew how much pain I was in. I thought to myself how my life would be without my only daughter.

I began the first stage of grief (denial).

After the week of her funeral I received another phone call from Detective Bass, affirming that he and his team caught the man who went on a shooting spree and murdered Tanisha. The next thing I had to do was to prepare for a pre-trial then a trial while attending class.

The man who murdered my daughter received two life sentences with no chance of parole. The jurors took two days to reach a verdict, and I later learned that one of the jurors was named Tanisha.

I returned to class the next week. While my pain has not lessened, I find comfort in knowing my daughter would be proud of my perseverance, despite the obstacles I faced. And yes, I am on track to graduate in December 2016.