As I wiped the tears off of my 17-yr-old daughter’s face, I knew I was putting myself at risk of getting it (if I didn’t already have it). But if getting sick is the price for hugging the hurting, then it should be worth the price. I stood embracing the girl of my height, my hair color: my princess – whom I hadn’t heard cry in years. She looked down at her phone, revealing the emailed results that her covid test that morning had come back positive.
The pandemic had cancelled her senior homecoming game, senior play, junior and senior trips, junior and senior proms, senior retreat, among the plethora of other cancellations (including her grandfather’s funeral over a year ago). But now, the country was finally opening, and a black-tie dinner was scheduled to celebrate the seniors at the famous Angus Barn Steakhouse where they would give senior awards. Christine’s formal attire was at the tailor to be picked up in time for the banquet. We scheduled our own “senior trip” with some of her girlfriends to go to the beach the day after the event – before summer jobs and colleges distanced the high school friends.
The decorations for the graduation party – a balloon arch among them – filled our basement, including a poster-board of pictures of her from youth till now, several of my favorite pieces of her art and rose-gold plates and flatware. “Class of 2021” decked the halls and the caterer had the final count for tacos. A 40-minute video of snippets of her local theatre’s performances when she was “Alice” or “Dorothy” or the co-emcee for the Christmas play at church was loaded to loop in the background during the hours of mingling. We had hoped to add a Jane Eyre shot from that night – since she was so happy to have a local theatre performing when the school could not.
But now the theatre’s show “mustn’t go on.” The positive test crushed the party plans. The formal attire would stay at the tailor until the newest and personal quarantine was done – long after the event for which it was bought.
Though I had seen the opening night, my family never saw any of Christine’s theatrical performance as Jane Eyre, since it got cancelled by the second show. (She was amazing!) The graduation party the following day would be turned into a 2020-retro-style drive-by-and-wave for carryout tacos and I expected the RSVP’s numbers to reduce greatly. The poster-board moved to the driveway, the video stayed in my memory.
God is always on plan A!
I have repeated that to myself a lot this year with all of the cancellations. He is never wringing His hands, wondering what’s going to happen next. He has it under control. It was His plan A to have a different kind of grad party. It was His plan A to have her theatre performance recorded on opening night, so we can hopefully watch a video later. It was His plan A that some of the girls could not make the rescheduled beach trip. It was His plan A that all of her classmates would gather in their formals and have a nice dinner together with the senior parents for the awards ceremony, while Christine and I sat home and watched on Zoom from the couch. (I too tested positive later.) I think I almost cried when cancelling our hair appointments for the formal, since we had planned so long ago to get dolled up together.
But you know what else was in that “Plan A”? Blessings in the mix.
I was having her graduation party catered the next day – something I have never done in my home! God blessed us, because the food wasn’t ruined by sick people (us) touching it, and some people felt safe stopping by to get some, thanks to His planning a caterer before I knew we would need it.
His plan A involved being able to move the balloon arch outside.
His plan A allowed that she and I could sit on the front porch while people drove by, dropped off gifts, stopped to talk to one another – or even came and gave us a “risky” hug.
His plan A didn’t need any of my plan B’s; it was perfect and memorable.
Messy moments make the most memories.
But do we remember?
I had intended to write this letter four weeks ago, but while Christine’s covid was a runny nose for a few days, I had more of the nastiness of its fame – even cancelling my own trip to Florida the following week. When I sat down today (finally) to write you, I was surprised I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember what I had thought was worthy of gratitude or the drama that had tried to steal it. I had to look back at my prayer journal to remember all of the gifts I had received out of God’s plan A – which felt like my plan B, or C or Z.
- Friends dropped off care packages – including freshly-squeezed juice for our health, our favorite snacks, coffee and even an Angus Barn care-package of a table cloth, homemade crackers with cheese and their famous chess pie, so we could enjoy a little bit of the princess-treatment while we watched the senior formal event from home.
- After the graduation drive-by party, friends stayed with her out on that front porch till well after midnight. They were sharing, laughing and enjoying each other, making her feel so special, despite her feeling otherwise.
- Health has become a greater blessing!! WOW! Sometimes we don’t recognize the blessing in health until it has been taken away… and restored. (See My Brain Tumor Letter to be reminded.)
- That Tuesday at the formal awards event, it was announced that she was the valedictorian! What an honor! And you know what her speech was about? (I won’t spoil it, but the 5-minute speech is attached below.)
During those weeks of sickness, often when the delivery man arrived at the front door (where I liked to sit outside reading), I felt like I should be falling on the ground, yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” (But that would have been weird.) Staying away from my family to stop the spread was tough and left us feeling like outcasts. But what a feeling! … to be reminded that THIS kind of outcast is EXACTLY whom Jesus reached out and TOUCHED!! The ones who were contagious! The ones who were “unclean!” The ones who were deserted by all! (Matt 8:1- 4)
When someone says, “Remember covid?” I am guessing I will remember the feeling of guilt over going “the wrong way” down the grocery aisle. I will likely remember the funny inconsistencies of “mask on,” “mask off,” “vax on,” “vax off.” On a more serious note, I will remember the angst of my son and his wife being separated from their son in ICU when my first grandchild was born prematurely, because somehow the hospital deemed it “safer” to have moms and dads visit at separate times from each other for the 7 weeks we waited to meet our little guy. I will likely remember my temper tantrums when I was “done with it,” as well as my cocky feeling that I must have been immune, because I had been exposed so many times and had never gotten it… till four weeks ago.
But now, I want to remember the blessings. Immeasurable blessings!… when I seek to find them. I am grateful I had written them in my prayer journal – and now for you – so I don’t forget them in the mess.
Oh how He loves you and me! Sometimes God’s “plan A” taking over my “plan A” is just the reminder of that love that I need. I always want to “remember covid,” (but I won’t give it the dignity of capital letters) because it’s a reminder of blessings of His plan A in this battle called life.
You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness… (Deut 8:2)
P.S. My daughter’s 5-minute graduation speech summarized the feelings well. No, I did not help her write it, and maybe I uploaded it at the end of this letter, because I knew if you saw this, you wouldn’t want to read any of my stuff ever again:)! She’s pretty special!
P.P.S. I won’t put the whole 40-minute home-movies video to loop at your next family dinner, but here was one of my favorite snippets: 9-year-old Christine in our church’s Christmas program with a little parody on Let it Go when she just “couldn’t control her desire to decorate.” Also, in lieu of the cancelled senior musical, the school did “Seniors Got Talent” in which Christine sang, “Don’t Know Why” (below).
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22‘Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ (Deut 6:20-23)