My dad was a family man through and through. In December I moved and decided to close a storage unit that I’d had for a few years. One of the boxes contained a small pile of letters that I had never come across before – letters written to my dad after his year and a half battle with esophageal cancer and his eventual passing. These letters contained some of the most heartfelt and honest things I have ever and likely will ever read. In each and every letter that was sent to my dad, they all talked about my father teaching and/or reminding them of the importance of family and their loved ones.
My dad owned a business for my entire life. He would leave the home before the sun was up and come home after it went down. However, my dad was always there for my brothers and me. Every play, sporting event, concert, presentation, etc, my dad found the time and was always there. I was so incredibly lucky for the 19 years that I had with my dad because I know that so many people are not as lucky to have a father like mine.
One thing that I don’t often hear is people talking about mourning the loss of your loved one when they are still alive. For a while I felt like I was on my own island, I had grieved much of the loss of my dad before he ever even died. When he died my grieving changed, it was still there, just different. About 7 or 8 years later, I found myself mourning the death of my dad for what felt like a second time, this time it was different yet again. I found myself feeling robbed of having a relationship with my dad as an adult.
Experience Camps entered my life when I needed it most and didn’t even realize. I went as a volunteer for the kids and left with the important reminder that the kids learn at camp – grief comes in waves. Listening to these incredible kids digest that lesson and watching them transform in one week was so incredibly powerful. I found myself seeing two options relating to this lesson: 1. Let the waves knock me down over and over again each time I tried to get up, or 2. Ride the waves and embrace it as best as I could – letting myself feel, regardless of the feeling and talking about it. I chose option 2 and my relationship with grief and loss has progressed in a way I never imagined possible.
Experience Camps is life-changing for everyone involved. It is a network of amazing kids and volunteers who “get it” and it is a constant reminder that there is so much life to be lived and so much power in memories (or lack thereof) and allowing ourselves to feel. Experience Camps is my reminder that kids are resilient, people are resilient.
Whenever I am having a tough day I remember that there are a finite number of days until we are back at camp. Even though 2020 didn’t give us the summer we were all hoping for, the days until camp, as we know it returns, are still countable. The tough days are worth it because the days at camp make it worth it. My dad was and is right – family is the most important thing, which is why I am so incredibly grateful for my Experience Camps family!