Dear Mom, I’m at Camp Kesem
I miss you so much. I’m at Camp Kesem, a place for kids and teens who have a parent with cancer. Mostly they have activities like any other sleep over camp, make friends, and climb on the counselors. But tonight they have Roots, where they share their stories about cancer (if they want to). The beginning of the ritual was so beautiful and sacred.
There was a labyrinth of lights on the floor, and as they came into the room, they were given a continuous piece of string to hold onto, symbolizing the connection they all have as young people affected by cancer, and of their connection to one another. Soft guitar and drumming was accompanying them as they processed.
Eventually everyone was in the labyrinth, and they sat down, people with their arms around each other, offering comfort and presence.
The leadership team (Rainbow) read letters from the gold group of campers — the oldest campers who are away backpacking for two nights as part of camp — letting everyone know what Roots means to them. An opportunity to share and be with grief, or not share and hold space for others to do so. That being seen and heard is healing. That grieving in community is important. The learning and knowledge that it’s ok to have feelings, be vulnerable, to cry (and it’s more than ok to do so with others); it makes us human, not weak.
I was crying softly, missing you so much. I’m crying as I write this.
After the letters were read, Rainbow came around and cut the string so the campers could tie their piece around their wrist; I saw many campers help each other tie theirs.
Music accompanied them as they finished the sacred walk through and out of the labyrinth to meet with their small groups to share as they wish.
I went outside and hugged one of our nurses whose mom died five years ago — she’s sad, too. We sat watching the light fade from the sky, turkeys eating on the golden hillside, a couple of bucks with large antlers grazing nearby. Hawks, Bluejays, Woodpeckers, Ravens and other birds flew through the evening air.
“Life goes on,” I thought to myself. And it does, but I still miss you keenly. Tonight was a time when that missing and grief rose to the surface again, as it will periodically for the rest of my life.
My big plan for the evening was to rest, so I can be available to support the counselors if they need it at their meeting which starts at 11:30 PM. Instead I am writing to you, sharing my Roots story. My howl after I hung up the phone after telling you your cancer was fatal. I’ve hardly cried since you died — I got quiet — but I’m crying now.
You are loved and remembered always, mom of my heart.
I sure hope we get to meet again someday so I can hug you again, and we can do the things we love doing together.
These campers are so fortunate to have Camp Kesem; a safe place to be kids, even though the evil cancer has touched their lives.
Photo by Schick @morgueFile