When We Look Back


Years ago when the ink was barely dry on my heart wrenching divorce, I was in the very necessary stage of moping around the house and crying. A friend who had apparently grown weary of my lament, sent me a picture of a quadriplegic wounded warrior, lying in the crib with his new baby.

Ouch. Okay. I got it. I got the point. I understood the whole “I felt bad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Dry your tears. Count your blessings. It could be worse. It could always be worse.

But the thing is, I needed that time. I needed to feel sad and grieve my loss. I needed to putter around and feel the heartbreak of everything I had lost. I wasn’t going to live in that space forever, but I needed to pass through it to get to the other side.

The other side is where I would find the gift of perspective. Perspective would show me how much better and beautiful life could still turn out to be– something I couldn’t see just yet.

Perspective is the gift of time and experience. 

Last week my daughter, along with thousands of other high school seniors across the country, found out that school is officially canceled for the rest of the year. While we suspected this might be the case, we were just barely holding onto the tiniest thread of hope that maybe… just maybe… things would end differently.

We weren’t ready for it to be over. She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready.

I intentionally keep saying “we” and “us”, because it has occured to me over and over again that while this is primarily her loss, it’s my loss too.  She is my youngest. The baby.  I’ve championed her (and two other kids) through these years and dreamed of her success and accomplishments right alongside her. It’s the end of an era for her, but it’s the end of an era for me, too.

2020 graphic

One day she woke up and went to school, like it was any other day, never realizing it was actually her last day of high school forever.  It has left everything so unfinshed. Undone. Wanting. It feels like we’ve been reading this fantastic adventure about her life and suddenly the pages go blank. What happens? Where’s the rest of the story? Where are the pictures of Prom? The senior picnic? Signing yearbooks? What about hearing her name called and watching as she walks across the stage at graduation…the victorious culmination of all these years? Parts of the story are missing now and we’re trying to figure out how to write the ending. Somehow, a closing chapter needs to be written.



If it sounds dramatic, I’m okay with that.

It feels dramatic. 

For my daughter and others like her, the depth of time is much shallower in youth.  Each day, week, and month carry a lot more weight when there’s only been 17 or 18 years of living. There’s a post going around social media reminding us that boys barely out of high school left to go off to the Vietnam war and that’s how their senior year ended. It feels as though it’s meant to shame some sense into our modern-day seniors. And while I understand what’s trying to be said, I have to imagine those boys did not march off to war galantly that very day. Only perspective years later could show them the honor and value in their sacrifice.

So for today, as we navigate these tricky waters together, I steer clear talking of silver linings. She knows things could be worse.  And we’re all beyond grateful we have our health. But also, we are sad. There is loss. It is hard.

Someday, when we look back, when she looks back, I already have so much anticipation to hear what gifts time and experience will deliver. I think about her sitting in job interviews or talking to her own kids about perseverance, optimism, and making the best of a bad situation. After all, she’s part of the Class of 2020. The Year of the Quarantine.

Missing out on the second half of senior year will always sting a little, of course, and not yet, but someday it’s going to make her life richer in ways she can’t know today. It’s going to make her stronger in ways she won’t see tomorrow. It’s going to make her wiser in ways she can’t understand right now.

It’s also going to make for one hell of a story for the rest of her life. Take it from me, kid. I’ve got the time and experience and someday, you will too.



Post Script for Emery Patricia~ You have been the best quarantine buddy a girl could ever ask for. You have braved these weird, scary, uncertain times with courage, stability, and humor that has us laughing every single day. You already knew how to do hard things, but now you can add “Canceled and Quarantined Senior Year” to the list.

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can”~

You have. And you will. And now you’re off to go finish writing the rest of your story! Congratulations, Emery!


Senior Portrait… A Guest Post By Casey Baun

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Graduation is here. It’s upon us. It’s TOMORROW.

<insert every cliche known to man re: childhood and the passage of time>

Casey was the recipient of the Orchard Park High School Striving for Excellence English Department Award. This guest post is her Swan Song. Her final farewell to such a bittersweet journey. It is everything I love in a good read: Thoughtful, honest, authentic, insightful, funny, smart and brave. It makes me think and it makes me feel. And it is everything I love about her, as well.

Congratulations, Casey Lauren. And Congratulations to the Class of 2015.

The senior class is like a complicated family tree; bursting with fruitful goodness in some areas, and knotting and splintering with resentful judgment in others. We all may not necessarily enjoy everybody’s company—kind of like the uncle who tells cringe-worthy jokes or the great aunt who knits tacky sweaters as Christmas presents. But this will not change the fact that we are still a family. We have watched one another undergo the transitions from naive kindergarteners to high school seniors weathered by life. Our troubles have gone from dropped ice cream cones to dropped friends, whether it was for our own good, or simply a painful leg of the social triangle, as some friendships have their rough cycles, whilst others simply fade out. But here we are in the waning days of high school with blooming offerings to establish our own lifestyles and new circles of close companions. We are plucking the petals of each day one by one, and this may be the last time we see one another before we spread our wings for individual flights, each of us destined for both joys and tribulations. We don’t know the exact time we may meet next, be it a surprise encounter in a coffee shop, or at our ten-year high school reunion.

So this jarring truth is your cue to bite every minute like a bullet and savor everything that you have capacity for. Because chances are, you will find yourself missing even the classes that irritated you most, or wondering where your former peers are, even if you have not said more than five syllables to each other. Keep in contact with those who make you feel sincerely special and those who make you laugh the most, because they are the ones who will remind you how loved and supported you really are, and who will see you through the more abrasive patches of life.

School has taught me a textbook’s worth of more than the Pythagorean Theorem or rules of grammar. It has taught me that the trivial things people obsess over during high school life, such as who broke up with whom, will not amount to any value worth words in a couple of years. It has taught me that there is so much more right than wrong if I just keep a watchful eye out for it. It has taught me that with an open spirit willing to forgive, I can imagine the pain an oppressor might be feeling, and find a little extra grace for them. It has taught me that people can be cruel, but that mercy, a high head and easy laughter are the best comebacks.

As strange as this may sound, I would like to thank my bullies who had a callous hand in refining and maturing me. It was like exercise for the spirit—I felt the burn at the time, but it toned my inner strength and gave me a flexible, resilient skin that I do not want to shed. We may not be friends and may never be, but what matters is that I feel cathartic closure in forgiving you and saying so. Because unfortunately, flaws of humanity include people hurting others out of their own raging fear and inner stings. School can be a terrifying time, and I can certainly empathize with your urges to make your sophomore selves appear untouchable, even though it was used through gains not needed. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Causing pain for people will not earn you benefits worth the price of the damage done, but if you have come across this principle already and embraced it, I am proud for you and I truly wish you well.

I would also like to thank my teachers who did not limit teaching strictly to the assigned lesson of the day, but also found time to teach us about life, about both its beauties and its cuts. While I may not use the formula for the area of a triangle anytime soon, I will surely remember and cherish the meaningful class discussions that we engaged in when other people were afraid to speak up for something worth fighting for. And thankfully I had too much pride most of the time to carry a can of taco sauce around the hall, for I might have missed out on something genuine and priceless. I would also like to express my deep appreciation for the teachers who took the trouble to see things from our level rather than looking down on us. The teachers who were not afraid to let us see them for their true and beautifully flawed selves rather than putting up a facade of false perfection. I would not be walking across the stage, clad in a cap and gown, without your support and encouragement. Your years’ worth of teaching and effort deserve more than a five minute speech dedicated to my gratitude, and I will be thinking of you during my new college classes.

And as OneRepublic wrote in a recent song, “I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give, and with every broken bone, I swear I lived.” Farewell, my friends. And I hope to see you at the family reunion.