Disclaimer: I recognize that COVID-19 is affecting everyone in serious ways, and I do not want to take away from that. I have friends and family who were forced to file for unemployment. I personally know of people who have contracted the virus. I have friends who are nurses working the front lines. I know that people are in much worse positions than I am.
However, I believe stories like mine should be heard, too. I am a senior in my last semester of college. The Friday before spring break felt like every other Friday before spring break. You see friends in the student center and in the dorms, and you say a lighthearted good-bye to them, and wish them a good spring break. And if you don’t see them before they leave, you either text them or expect to see them in 10 days. After all it’s only spring break, and a week apart won’t affect your friendships too much. Unless a pandemic hits hard right in the middle of spring break.
This wasn’t a perfect semester, but no semester is perfect. I am the kind of person that rides with the twists and turns, and works with it. With that in mind, I was still having a great last semester. I had all my favorite professors for classes, I was coordinator of my household and sisterhood was so strong, I was a big sister this semester, my group of friends had formed into an incredible group of people, I was really enjoying and learning a lot with my internship, and at Franciscan, the sacraments are readily available every day.
Since freshman year, I had always loved spring time in Ohio. The second half of the spring semester after spring break was the best because it gets warmer outside, there is sunshine, and there are so many events that happen in the spring. You always look forward to the second half of senior spring because that is when you really get to savor all the Lasts. Here is just a peek of what we were expecting to come back to: spring sporting events starting, my last household retreat, last Holy Week on campus (complete with Easter Vigil and the Res Party), last spring formal, last household inductions (as a coordinator and a big), senior honoring in household, last finals week, senior week, and graduation.
All of it gone within three emails.
I came back to campus after spring break, and was able to talk to some seniors about what we were feeling. My friend described it better than I ever could: we were stripped. Stripped of all the lasts. Stripped of our face-to-face education. Stripped of the sacraments. Stripped of our friends and our formal good-byes. Stripped of everyday life. I felt like everything I had worked almost four years for had been taken from me. Right now, I am sitting in my childhood bedroom writing this, feeling defeated. I have felt this defeat for 3 weeks now. It has gotten easier, but I think that’s because I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to finish the semester on campus, where everything is familiar.
Hope is something I have always leaned on. I consider myself an optimistic person, and I am a firm believer that when things get tough, everything will turn out fine. I have never been in such a position where hope has been so hard to find. I would like to believe that things will be better sooner rather than later, and I will be the first to say to my friends that Jesus is bigger than any illness, and He is. But it is so hard for me to believe it myself. During class, my professor said that the thing humans dislike most is uncertainty because we like to have control over our own lives. And that’s the truest thing I have heard. He said that if you ask cancer patients what the most traumatic part was in their whole process, the majority of them will say it was the time before being diagnosed, when the only thing knew was that they may or may not have cancer. The hardest part right now is becoming comfortable in the uncertainty. I don’t know when I will get to go to Mass or Reconciliation again. I don’t know when I will get to see my friends again. I don’t know when I will get to step foot on campus again.
I think the way I personally have become more comfortable with the uncertainty is knowing that God has the power to stop all of this, and He will. We know how the battle between good and evil will end. Right now, we just have to wait for that battle to end. The comfort comes in knowing that good will always wins. God will always triumph, and we will be able to have normal lives again. Another aspect of hope is having something to look forward to. It is important to not just think about what we lost. We have to think about our response to the loss. For me, I cannot wait to step foot in a chapel again. I am excited to see my new response to the Eucharist and Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament. I am excited to have a good Confession again. My hope for myself is that I never take the Sacraments for granted ever again. I also hope that I will truly savor being face to face with people: having good cups of coffee together, sitting in the sun with friends, singing karaoke, sharing a hug, wiping tears, meeting new people, looking my neighbor in the eye and really seeing them, loving people with all I have in the present moment because I don’t know when it could be taken from me again.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Through the uncertainty, we must find our hope in the Lord. We must be reminded that He loves us too much to make us suffer. He loves to see us smile, embrace, enjoy our community, join together to praise Him. He will bring us through this, and we will have a renewed love for each other and Him, but what we must do is have hope.