Gone doesn’t mean the end
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Have you ever stared at a word and known it just held so much emotion? So much so, that even looking at it becomes too much to bear? There’s one word through the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has been on my lips and mind, that accurately describes how I feel.
The events of the last month were not how I saw my spring going. Each day, I look at my nearly empty calendar and the lump in my throat gets a little bigger. I am most definitely an introvert, but I care deeply about my “kids” and my communities.
Now, I feel most days as though I am cut off from everyone. When I walked out of the Cornell High School after a sports banquet March 16, I had no idea it would be for the last time this academic year.
Why didn’t I stop for a second and take a breath? Why didn’t I look around and think of all the things that happened there over the school year, like I normally do at graduation, which starts a whole new journey for everyone involved?
Why didn’t I think to run to the Holcombe and Cadott schools to do the same before they closed that last day, reliving these wonderful memories? I love these three schools so much – the students, the staff, the teachers – and I didn’t get the chance to have a year-end closure I normally have.
As the weeks have gone on, my heart has about broken, as the realization set in that I would not see the kids I have watched grow up, have their senior moments. I won’t lie, I’m always a wreck at graduation, because I love them all so much and will miss them like crazy. I hope they know how very much they mean to me.
Now, I might not even get to see them walk across a stage and receive their diploma, and I’m crying for a different reason. I won’t get to see them search for me in the audience, to pose for one last picture, whether it makes the paper or not. I won’t get to go up to them, fighting more tears, to say something to them on their special day, these kids who have become such a huge part of my heart.
The same goes for my kids in the kindergarten class. There’s so much excitement as the kids stand, all wiggly, while they wait to walk into the rest of their future. I snap their pictures and grow teary-eyed, already thinking ahead to 12 years from now, when I will take their photo as a senior.
Since I’m a sports nut and adore kids, high school sports combines my two greatest loves and I proudly cheer for each of my teams throughout the spring season. Seeing the athletes give their all, the team spirit, the sportsmanship, makes my heart soar.
Music is as much a part of me as Halloween, so to hear that there will be no spring concerts, no State performances, no community theatre, breaks my heart in ways I can’t even put into words.
Awards days, honor society ceremonies, prom, graduation parties, all have been taken away. Not only for the school events, but public activities, too.
Chicken dinners, the Missing Persons Awareness event, Outdoor Edventure, the annual family dance, maybe even Memorial Day ceremonies and the annual fair, not to mention lunch dates, baby showers and parties.
As each event is canceled on the calendar, my heart sinks a little more. Finally, after the announcement came that schools would not reopen at all this year, businesses would stay closed, social distancing must remain in place and that it could be months before we can get back to any sense of “normalcy,” all I could feel was numb. The despair really hit me that day.
Gone, I thought. It’s all gone.
I had been invited to a birthday parade, for one of my favorite girls – excuse me – young ladies, but that day, honestly, I felt so low, I didn’t want to leave the house and try to smile as I went by her house to celebrate her 12th birthday. However, I knew I had to do this, because she already couldn’t have a party, how bad would she feel if she didn’t have one more car in the parade?
So, I made up a sign, parked where we were supposed to meet and waited for others to show up. One by one, people lined up and suddenly, I didn’t have to fake a smile. As we called to each other through our cracked windows, I have never been more proud of my hometown.
Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we safely managed to make a 12-year-old’s birthday special, so special, she’ll never forget it.
Nobody was entirely sure how something like this worked, so, my big old car led the way. As I pulled out and into the lead, my radio station started playing Celebration, by Kool and the Gang. I cranked it as high as it would go, honking and waving as I went by.
Driving by the birthday girl’s house, her face was the best thing I’d ever seen and something I’ll carry with me always. Her mom was in tears, as all the cars behind me waved and honked, calling out birthday greetings.
As Celebration continued playing, I thought, yeah, celebrate good times. Bad times come and go, but the good times are what keep us going. As I carried on down the road, I knew then, I’m not cut off from my community. It’s right here. It always has been and it always will be.
It wasn’t gone at all.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months, perhaps even years. I am still sad about the things that have been taken away, but I have hope for the future. We will come through this better than before. We will be more compassionate, more helpful, more together, even while we are apart.
Times are tough and probably going to get tougher, but there’s one thing I know is for certain.
We’re gonna be OK.