Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
Senior Class 2020
What a season it has been for our students.
My niece and nephew have braces that were to come off, after years of anticipation. Only to have that time extended because of COVID-19. To them it seems like an eternity.
Another nephew was to take his driver’s test. Who hasn’t looked forward to that momentous day? His test has been postponed due to COVID-19. The wait is excruciating.
And another niece in college came home at Spring break: only to stay home. Classes began online. Her summer work plans have changed. And she doesn’t know if her classes will resume on campus in the Fall.
This is the time that the Seniors look for—the culmination of their schooling and hard work.
For many, there will be Awards ceremonies with accolades from their coaches and team mates. Some have achieved records at their schools or made a lifetime record. Others have reached honors in Debate Team, Orchestra, or Drama. Some have worked hard on travel teams starting in elementary school. They were looking to cap it off with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. But then came COVID-19.
Few Seniors of 2020 will have the Prom they expected, the Yearbook signings, or hugs during the last home room. They’ve watched upper classmates go through this process and they were poised at the edge of their future, grasping for the diploma.
How are they to bring finality and closure to such a moment in their lives?
Many schools are working together for parades, complete with police escorts and fire engines. Some have lined the school entrance with pictures of each Senior. Balloons flutter by their front doors.
Disappointment is there. But we can help them by listening well, and recognizing the loss. There are so many losses in this time. Certainly illness and death surrounds us in this time. And some may downplay what is happening to the Senior class of 2020. Theirs may not be a medical loss, but it still deserves our empathy and understanding.
In talking with a few Seniors, I’ve come to appreciate their thoughts on the topic.
First, a young man who was not able to play out his Senior year in Baseball.
When I spoke with him, I asked him what was his greatest loss? Without skipping a beat he responded:
“My last year of baseball.”
In his Junior Year, Mudcat threw a No Hitter. He hit a home run to take the lead in the first round of playoffs. Tri-County conference: Pitcher and Hitter of the week.
All South Jersey and All Tri-County teams.
“We maybe got in 5 practices. I was hoping to achieve more records for the team. That won’t happen now. There will be no awards ceremony.
There will be no prom. Or graduation.
It’s really different without my friends. Before it was every day in school. Now, we can do FaceTime, but it is not the same. I miss my friends.”
“I do see one positive. School has opened up online classes. I have more control over my time. I’m not in a rush. Now, I’m open to online classes even in college. It was a good year except for Coronovirus.”
This young man’s nickname is Mudcat: given to him from Coach Lee Ware. And his coach has had a legacy: he coached his father in 1988. How many coaches can say they’ve trained generations in a family?
But there is more to the story. This year Coach Lee Ware is retiring. It is his 46th year. I talked to him about Mudcat and here were his thoughts:
“This just breaks my heart. These Seniors don’t get to finish. Mudcat? He was my best pitcher in 46 years. He pitched 2 No Hitters. He is a Bull Dog on the Mound. And he is a phenomenal young man.”
And why the nicknames? “I like to give each one a nickname, like an extra identity. I remember every one. His Dad who played in 1988? His name was Dirt.”
32 years later, and the pride this coach feels? For Dirt and Mudcat? This family? It is almost palpable.
We can only imagine where Senior Year would have taken him.
There is disappointment. But there is the bittersweet realization that his records were solid and notable. And he remains positive. And looks forward to online classes.
He will play baseball next year in college.
In these reflections, a young woman gives an “address” to her classmates:
My heart is overflowing for you.
I know this is hard for you. As a fellow senior I’m right there with you.
Maybe you’ve watched siblings & friends walk during their graduation & dreamed of the day when that would be you. Maybe school was an uphill climb & graduation was your ending goal, your trophy. Maybe you dreamed of prom since you were little. Maybe you had plays, dance competitions, championship games, recitals. Maybe you just wanted the last few moments with your high school friends and now all of that is gone. But here’s my message to you today:
It’s OK to be sad. It’s ok to cry and grieve for what is lost. I’ve heard many people say that they shouldn’t be complaining because there are people that have it worse and while this is true, everyone has their struggles. Everyone has their mountains to climb. The fact that someone else has it worse does NOT make your tears less legit! God never tells us not to cry. He doesn’t tell us not to be sad. On the contrary, he says that he comes close to the brokenhearted. So let Him hold you close & give you peace. I’ll tell you one thing God does say, though. God commands us not to fear— a total of 365 times!! This can seem crazy in these times of uncertainty. But this what I want you to hear:
It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to cry, but then look around you. Look at your families. Look at your texts from your friends. Observe the flowers & the sky and listen to the birds singing. Don’t despair & don’t fear but trust the Lord, for He has this in His hands. Lean into him.
A Hope and a Future
Both of these graduating Seniors have faced the loss, but now look to the future. They are looking forward to what lies ahead. They understand that there was much lost, but so much more gained.
Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange And they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day. Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCnf46boC3I)
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
Henry David Thoreau
“We have no idea what lies ahead or how God will open doors of potentiality when we consciously choose to get out of the ruts we’re in and start moving down new paths about which we can be excited—even passionate.”
“There are far, far better things ahead than those we leave behind.” C.S.Lewis
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29: 11
I think Mudcat and N are going to be fine. They are both on their way to a fabulous hope and a future.