At Camp at the end of the second day there is held a candle lighting ceremony when the center of the room has a draped table adorned with nothing but candelabra, where each camper, their buddy, and the volunteers have placed a photo of the person whom they have recently lost, or whom they particularly wish to honor this year. A counselor says a few words, lights his candle while speaking of his loved one and offers the flame to the next person. As it gets to a buddy, he goes first as an example to his camper and one by one, all of the candles are lit. It is an emotional, but healing time.
I rushed off without my pictures of Melissa and Adam, but as it turned out my heart was heavy with the memories of so many family and friends that I could not have carried all the photos. Of course, Melissa was heavy on my heart along with Baby Jones, and for Jennifer – Adam. But then — even as I was trying to take a few quiet pictures, my mind turned to mom and dad, to Mimi and DanDan, Aunt Jane and Uncle Walter, JoJean, my wonderful riding buddy Robert, Granddaddy Moritz and Aunt Cora, Aunt Maggie and Uncle Joe and many others. It was as if my being was flooded by all of these angels from the past.
We had 11 boys (girls have a separate room), their buddies and other male staff all together. As each spoke of their loved one, two emotions were palpable: tension and release. I felt both myself. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and all of our family for our losses but then there are the three siblings whose father was murdered just months ago. The aunt who died of cancer at age 32. And the stories go on. These children ages 7-12 have come bravely, if timidly, to confront their grief. To be sure, each is “sent” by someone but the way they embrace the love and understanding they receive is amazing. In three days, their lives are forever transformed.
Camp Agape Texas is a non-denominational Christian faith-based camp. They make no bones about that, and it’s the only faith-based bereavement camp in Texas. Kim Turk is the founder, as mentioned above. Galyn Woerner, her cousin by marriage, is the Camp Director/Drill Sergeant 🙂
Kim and I had a long talk on the porch during the afternoon. We talked of the fact that while there are retreats for cancer victims, for the mentally challenged, the physically disabled, and for many other “categories” of people who can use a helping hand, there is not an organized movement for place for the one thing that touches 100% of the population: bereavement. She used the term “sanctuary” which I thought to express the need well. There is work to be done and I feel drawn to help with it in some way.
The Camp always needs volunteers. Buddies who are with their camper day and night, high-school helpers who do a dozen different functions, people who unload a cargo trailer full of supplies and gear and then load it up and cart it off to await another year. I helped with photography along with two others, Galyn and a videographer. Each cabin has a counselor and they are led by a lead counselor. Then we have the ever-popular snack crew and many others.
Being able to see, and be a small part of, the beginning of healing of these little hurting hearts is the most profound endeavor in which I’ve been involved. I will do this as long as I can breathe and walk. I encourage others to do the same. Mark your calendars for July 2016, 2017, and thereafter.