I’m Kelia, my Dad died of brain cancer when I was twenty, and his name was Stephen.  That’s the story I shared with a bunk full of 11 year old boys, and that’s the story I shared with a bunk of 14 year old boys.  And at the end of the week, some of those boys asked me if I was coming back next year, and if they’d get to hang out with me again.

I’m Kelia, my Dad died in the living room as I watched him take his final breath, and some days I still don’t believe it’s true.  It taught me that life is short and I should take advantage of each and every day, and I’m honoring his life by authentically and unapologetically sharing my story and encouraging others to share theirs.  That’s the story I shared with a circle of adults, in the midst of forty others telling theirs, and there wasn’t a dry eye in sight.

It’s been six years since Dad died.  I’ve graduated college and moved out of the house and gotten promotions at work and have gone back to school and have moved some more, and it always stings that Dad can’t be there to help and to celebrate.  I woke up one morning at camp, after a day of basketball and swimming and chanting and cheering, still caught in that breath of a moment thinking I’ll be able to tell Dad all about how awesome camp was and how much he would’ve loved it.  And then I remember that I can’t.

But then I remember that I don’t have to tell him.  Because he already knows.  Because I carry him with me wherever I go.  And so the first people I told about camp when I got home were my brother and my sister, and I told them both I want to bring them with me next year.

These campers have faced some of the hardest times life has to offer, and yet the strength and resiliency they show simply in boarding the bus to camp reminds me that the future remains bright indeed.

We all have moments, and days, and experiences that impact our lives in an irreversible way.  Dad is dead, and that is forever true.  Grief is forever.  But so are the bonds and memories I forged with nearly two hundred people over the past week of my life, and I am wildly grateful and appreciative to have those people and that time forever be a part of my life and my story moving forward.  And for the first time in a while, I’m wholeheartedly convinced that I’m telling the story I want to be living.

Til next time,

Kelia Bergin, year one, clinical team