It is summer and that means traveling, family, friends, and vacation. For our family that also means berry picking, swimming, and time at the lake. Almost every summer, my husband’s family spends their time in the Adirondacks in N.Y. My husband says his fondest memories were spent at the camp as a kid. Of course, he has wanted to pass this onto the kids as long as the family owns the place, so we have gone every year since we returned to the states, with the kids. That is until the last two summers.
The summer of 2015 brought a very different trip to New York.
We came for a funeral. For our six year old.
That year, there was no camp, but there was family.
The following year, we were moving. And Peter was in training. So the girls and I headed up to New York without him.
There was a family emergency that took place and I spent my time in Rochester, but my girls were whisked away to camp, and like their Dad, they built more memories of the “happiest place on earth”.
As for me though, my extended family member needed my attention and helo. But I will not lie, I was somewhat relieved to not go to camp.
Our last time there together was with Molly. She was fresh off of radiation and miserable. She was tired, depressed, and frustrated with her limited abilities. She would sit up at the house and look down as her sisters kayaked, swam, ran, and dove. I suspect she was nervous about the water because right before diagnosis she had a seizure in a pool and almost drown. She also was always the one to get into the water first, run the hardest, and be the last kid to come inside. Now, her heart broke into a million, sad pieces as she sat there wishing things were different.
Peter and I haven’t been back to camp since. And this Sunday we will step foot on the rocky pavement and look up at the home that for so many years brought us joy and fun. Will it do the same thing this year? Or will grief grab a hold of us and strangle?
I suppose we will have to wait and see. I wish I could say that we are both resolved to not let camp be THAT place for us. I so desire to hear us both say the words out loud that we will make this the best vacation ever.
But the reality is, we never know.
Every bit of life now is mingled with sadness and joy. We remember the good. We see the happy now. And yet we ache with the empty feeling that Molly is missing. She will forever be missing from our home, our vacations, our gatherings.
Though we live very much in the now and though we have been presented with the gift to laugh louder, squeeze tighter, and hold on longer because we now understand that you never know how long you have,yet we will forever have a piece of us missing.
But I shall not leave this on a sad note.
For although I am unsure of the emotions that are to come and the feelings that may invade the day, I know that I am not alone. I am surrounded by a family that knew Molly. Those that ache too and get it. I get to share stories with Sam and Clara and make new memories with them as they live life well and hard. And I get to sit beside a man that has a piece of his heart missing too. Though we grieve very different, we both know what was lost and what is missed. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Most of all, I am surrounded by a God that sits and talks with the one I miss. He holds her in his arms until I can again. I am loved by a Father that also lost his Son and knows that my ache is deep and scar still very tender. He stands before me, arms wide open whispering the words,
“It is okay. My strength will carry you to the door of the camp, down to the water, and through the woods. My arms will help you row the paddle, swim through the lake, and hold the stick to roast a marshmallow. My tongue will speak her name, encourage your heart, and let you know that you are going to get through each and every day of this life because there is still so much hope that I have given. My ears will listen to your laughs, hear your praises, and bend to your prayers. Lastly, my hands will wipe your tears, hold your heart, and bandage your wounds, gently.”