Seventeen And Still Standing

Dear Ane,

This is not the letter that I thought I would be writing to you on your seventeenth birthday.  Usually, I try to make these letters humorous and inspiring and pushy – all the things that moms can get away with.

This year has not turned out at all like we thought it would.  You have been struggling in ways that I both understand and fail to comprehend.  In the wake of something that none of us have ever lived through before, we have all struggled, but your struggle is unique in the family.  That is mostly because you have more of a life outside of the family, and yet you’ve been stuck in here with us for months on end.  Though I do think that, in retrospect, the smartest thing we did, and we didn’t even realize it at the time, was have you get your driver’s license before we even used the word “coronavirus” in casual conversation.

How different it is from last March, when we thought we might be out for only a few weeks, and we snuck you off to Maui for a week before the world basically stopped moving.  Even that trip, as fun as it was, foreshadowed what was to come when you were given a mask to wear on the flight home.

The school year ended in a mess, began in chaos, and we still don’t know which end will be up when it is all over.  I know you are struggling, and that your struggles are reflected writ large in the student population – which is pretty much the only reason you weren’t grounded into oblivion when the progress reports came in.  Pandemic or not, online school or not, you CAN pull it together and do better.  Grace will only stretch so far when it comes to your grades.

I am glad that you are working, because I do feel like that has been one of your saving graces since this summer.  I am glad that you and your “homies” are so close, even though our efforts to maintain some kind of social study group has faltered due to scheduling and other families’ need to self-quarantine for different reasons.  I wish I could make things different, better, easier for you – but I can’t.

I remember being seventeen very vividly, and your seventeenth birthday is happening under circumstances that haven’t been seen in a century.  Your junior year can’t even be compared to my junior year.

The powers-that-be like to claim that you and your peers are “resilient,” which we all know is code for a thousand things, and none of them reflect what is best for you or your peer group.  Despite the alarmism and panic that those in authority would like to continue to push on you all, to your emotional detriment, you, my dear daughter, must live in hope.

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

I don’t know when this will all come to and end and life will begin to look more normal, but we both know the One who does know.  You might feel crushed, in despair, and abandoned, but you are not.

Hope lives within you.

So, on your birthday, while I can’t promise you much, I can promise you that there is hope.  There is love.  There is joy.  There is peace.

Your dad, brothers, and I all love you so much, and while this isn’t the birthday you thought it might be, we will make the best of what is.  Today, we celebrate you, you amazing girl.

Happy 17th birthday, Ane!


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