It’s Hard to Find the Right Thing to Say So I’ll Just Say “I’m So Sorry”

While she was home over spring break, my college junior had to take an oral typhoid vaccine in preparation for a cross-cultural trip to Ecuador at the end of this semester. The medicine made her hurt stomach hurt horribly, but it was 100% WORTH IT, because…Ecuador. Where she’d be climbing mountains and zip-lining and storing up memories that would last a lifetime.

I’m sorry for all the people who are sad about what they have lost. (Twenty20 @yummypixels)

My daughter’s cross-cultural trip was cancelled

Except that on account of the global outbreak, her trip was cancelled. But the cross-cultural requirement of her university wasn’t, so to fulfill it, she has to take a class. Instead of zip-lining through the Ecuadorian rainforest, she’s going to be sitting at a computer, reading about other cultures and how she can cross them. At least we know she won’t catch typhoid fever.

I keep saying the same thing to her: I am so sorry. I’m saying this, directly and in spirit, to a lot of people and groups these days, because there is just so much to be sorry about that we can’t do anything about except be sorry. 

For the record: of course anyone who is not sick is thankful they are well. This version of “I’m sorry” is an altogether different animal than we would reserve for direct victims of this disease. 

I’m sorry for all the people who are sad about the things they have lost

But the fact is that there are a lot of people in our world right now who, while very glad they have not lost their lives, are nonetheless very sad about things they have lost. And to them, I am so sorry.

Spring brides who are having to revamp your weddings and get married in front of a justice of the peace instead of a cast of hundreds of your closest family and friends, I am so sorry.

This year’s high school seniors whose hard “lasts” are being made harder by the fact they’re not happening at all, I am so sorry.

This year’s college seniors who are scrambling to figure out your future when you aren’t even sure what tomorrow will look like, I am so sorry.

Couples who planned 50th wedding anniversary, extended-family, once-in-a-lifetime, non-refundable trips to Italy, I am so sorry.

NCAA athletes who waited their entire lives to go to the tournament, I am so sorry.

Moms at home with young children who don’t understand any of this, least of all why they can’t play with their friends or go to the park, I am so sorry.

Moms at home with teenagers who do understand this but are miserable without social interaction and are taking it out on their mothers, I am so sorry.

Workers who are suddenly, scarily unemployed, I am so sorry.

Local restaurant owners who have had to close your doors and know you’ll never reopen, I am so sorry.

Adult children whose parents are in care facilities and whom you can only see with your face pressed to a window, I am so sorry.

Almost-retirees whose retirement plans are now only a shadow of their former selves, I am so sorry.

Teachers who are being asked to teach in brand-new ways and RIGHT THIS MINUTE, PLEASE, I am so sorry.

Spring break travelers whose planned vacations represented much more than a trip to the beach, I am so sorry.

Childcare providers who are standing in the gap for working parents whose school-aged children are suddenly your clients, I am so sorry.

The grieving, who are no less in mourning than you were before all this started but are now feeling as if you are somehow expected to be “over” your grief, I am so sorry.

Grocery store employees who are bearing the brunt of customers’ fears and frustrations, I am so sorry.

Moms whose big kids are not with you during this quarantine and who look longingly at all the posts about whole families being “stuck” at home together, I am so sorry.

Spring sports athletes who’ve waited all year for your season to start only to find it ended without a single practice, I am so sorry.

There is nothing to say except “I’m sorry”

To all of these and to the many, many others who are forced members of a club you never wanted to join, I know there is nothing I or anyone can say to replace what you’ve lost or ease what you’re enduring. But in every “I’m sorry” you’re hearing right now from people who are genuinely hurting for you, I hope you can hear something else, too: the longing of hearts who look forward to being able to say, someday, “I’m so glad for you.”

About Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She’s been married for 25 years to an exceedingly patient guy she picked up in church. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebookand Twitter

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