It isn’t supposed to be like this. But life is hardly ever predictable or fair.
Everyone — all of us – are sacrificing at some level. The current nationwide — worldwide — situation is touching each of us in a truly personal way. I don’t want to dismiss or make light of anyone’s circumstance, but as the mom of a high school senior, I feel their burden in my heart and soul.
For a long time, I’ve contemplated writing a column about sacrifice, but it was going to be about a parent’s sacrifice. We do it a lot, without even thinking. I thought perhaps other moms and dads could relate. But knowing what I know now about how the rug can be pulled out from under us in the blink of an eye makes writing about my own superficial sacrifices seem selfish.
This virus and stay-at-home directive has us all in mourning because we all are dealing with our own personal sense of loss. And for me, I truly mourn for the high school seniors who may have many of their lasts ripped from them.
A last spring break that they were required to experience in a state of “self quarantine.” Last Prom. Last spring sports season. Singing the school song one last time with their buddies. Senior slide show. Baccalaureate. Last quarter with the friends they’ve known since preschool. Senior banquet. Wearing the cap and gown in a formal graduation ceremony. Graduation open houses. Shaking hands. Hugging their friends. Simply being seniors at the top of the world for the next few months.
Small things in the big scheme of things? Perhaps. But it depends on whom you ask, I guess.
In the meantime, they are learning about distance learning, sheltering in place and toilet paper shortages. They are young and feel invincible, but they are affected by this tragedy. They are growing up — maturing — too soon and too fast.
These are unprecedented times.
The senior class of 2020 has put in their time and they’ve earned a great ending to their public education and senior year. But life isn’t always fair. Heck, it’s hardly ever fair. Unfortunately, they learned this lesson early on; 9/11 was never just a couple of numbers to them. It was something much greater, much more devastating.
This is not to downplay the seriousness of what our nation is experiencing. I fear for those who are at higher risk for the coronavirus. I have an elderly dad who would be clobbered by the disease, so I get it. I have friends who are working in medical careers, law enforcement and other essential jobs, and I applaud them. They are superheroes. Everyone — vulnerable or in the trenches — deserves our thoughts, prayers and behavior changes. We have to work together now to make everyone as safe as possible.
Still, as a mom of a senior in high school, I mourn. For lost experiences. For lost time with friends. For sacrifices that I’d surely make in his place if I could, but I can’t. Moms and dads can’t help but be selfish for their children. And although I understand some may see my stance as selfish, I mourn — with real tears and real honesty.
I believe this group of young people is destined for greatness. They’ve certainly been dished a plateful from before they were even born. This adversity will lead to something big. They are being challenged because challenge leads to growth.
I am hopeful that all won’t be lost. I am hopeful for my dad and the other individuals who are vulnerable. I am hopeful for the essential workers who still must go to their jobs each day. I am hopeful for people stranded on cruise ships or in another country unable to get home.
I am hopeful we can get this thing under control and we all can get back to our regular lives. But I am especially hopeful we can do this for the class of 2020.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.