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Hillsdale College announced it would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester. Nolan Ryan | Col­legian

Only four weeks ago, I was relaxing in a cabin in Ten­nessee, reading chil­dren’s lit­er­ature for a class. It was a normal spring break, and while I was enjoying the time with my family, I was also ready to see my college house­mates again. 

But that’s when I first heard we wouldn’t be coming back, at least not until March 30 — and the impending dread set in as col­leges across the nation began sending stu­dents home.

We all know by now what hap­pened in the fol­lowing weeks, including the expected but dis­ap­pointing news we received last week: we will not be returning to campus to finish the spring semester. As a senior, it hurt to read those words. The class of 2020 has spent the last four years learning to love the people and the places of our small corner in Michigan, and to love one another. Now, events that we cannot fully explain and can do nothing to change have cut short our time together.

We can’t com­mis­erate over papers and final exams in the library. We can’t dance the night away at Cen­tral­hal­la­palooza. We can’t grab some victory ice cream from A.J.’s on the last day of classes. Of course, we’re grieving this loss, and that’s OK. We should be.

J.R.R. Tolkien knew we needed to allow our­selves to feel sadness. In one par­tic­u­larly poignant passage at the end of “The Return of the King,” Frodo is about to sail away, leaving his friends behind.

“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the sea comes the end of our fel­lowship in Middle-earth,” Gandalf says to the gathered com­panions. “Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

And this, espe­cially now, is what we need to remind our­selves: that not all tears are evil.

When we feel sorrow at the absence of good things, it shows we’re human. Loss, even if tem­porary, is some­thing we start dealing with at a young age, so we know not to be sur­prised when it comes. 

As a child, friends and I would hide from whichever mother arrived to take one of us back home after a playdate. Surely, we thought, we could prolong the inevitable by avoiding the front door, but, in the end, there was always the sad farewell.

Of course, we have to be careful about letting our sorrow turn into ingrat­itude. For the seniors, as for others, Hillsdale has given us special gifts, gifts that none of us deserved. Despite the tears we may shed, we can be thankful for the blessings bestowed on us through friends, faculty, and local res­i­dents.

But don’t fight your grief as if it’s a sign of ingrat­itude. Let yourself be sad, and give thanks for the blessings you’ve received.

One afternoon this week, I sud­denly was overcome with sadness at the fact that I would not have another chance to sit outside the library with friends, enjoying springtime and good company. But this simul­ta­ne­ously brought back mem­ories of exactly what I was grieved to lose. I recalled a time when I was lying on the grass, reading medieval devo­tions for my medieval lit­er­ature class with Pro­fessor of English Justin Jackson. A friend inter­jected and started posing ques­tions about the­ology to those of us there. It ended up being one of the best con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had about God’s love. And it was the act of grieving that brought this memory back to mind.

This season away from Hillsdale, at least for me, has proved to be some­thing of a paradox: I ache at the loss I expe­rience, but that aching leads to remem­bering. Even beyond that, for grad­u­ating seniors, our friend­ships don’t end now. We will stay in touch, even if it’s not the same as being together.

As Saint-Exu­pery’s little prince tells the nar­rator, “when your sorrow is com­forted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend.”

Nolan Ryan is a senior studying English. He is the editor-in-chief of The Col­legian.