Sunday, May 22, 2011 Comfort Zone Camp
She smiled. I left her Friday quiet and sullen, and when she saw me today, she smiled. Her beautiful soul out in plain view again. I want to embrace her and say stay, and it is my hope she will. Right now though, I drink her in as if finally quenched from a long trek in a desert. I have my child back.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I met Lynn Hughes, founder of Comfort Zone Camp, at Lowe’s while waiting in line. As I am apt to do, I started a conversation with a total stranger and asked what her Comfort Zone t-shirt was about. She told me it was a camp for grieving children. Still not certain what she meant, I inquired further. She told me her story. In the line at Lowe’s she told me about losing her mother, and then her father. The effect it had on her life, the motivation to create a place for children to grieve and heal.
I was so affected by her story, I cried in the car on the way home. I’m not sure if my son had been born, but I know my daughter was just a young toddler and I remember wondering how horrific it would be to lose not one, but both parents. Lynn’s story and the camp would stick with me for years and I would think of it often.
Many theologians would argue that God does not intervene in our lives, that He does not ‘make’ things happen or ‘put’ people in our lives. I will argue show me the proof. I’m sorry, I cannot believe my meeting Lynn all those many years ago was simply coincidence. Is providence not divine coincidence?
I lie in my hammock on this chilly spring night in May and wonder how my children are doing at Comfort Zone Camp right now. Are they clicking with their big buddies? Were they screaming with joy and laughing in the ice breaker activities? Did they share their stories, their grief, their challenges in their healing circles tonight? Can they communicate how they have processed our last year, complete with the first anniversary, and moving forward to yet another birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter without their father. Will they be able to talk about him without feeling conflicted?
Will they provide comfort and reassurance for other new campers now that they are camp veterans this 2nd year? Will I notice as profound a change in them this year as last when I pick them up?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I tear up in anticipation of the memorial service. The healing circle leaders, volunteer professional clinicians, share the names of the children they had in their healing circles and what the children worked on, how they worked through things. More than one had a faltering voice and tears.
The kids and their buddies come in and the energy in the room ramps up. The memorial begins and healing circle groups come and share with us, the outsiders looking into their protected camp bubble, a glimpse of their weekend journey. Parts are so poignant, so emotional, that there is almost a unified choir of tears in the room. Stories, songs, shared memories of loved ones. Perhaps the most moving was a little 8 yr old girl who courageously stood before a room crowded with campers, volunteers, grieving families and sang a song to her father; struggling through her own tears but sharing her strength with the rest of us – young and old alike.
At the balloon release, hundreds of balloons with notes tied onto them are released simultaneously heavenward.
I speak to the children’s buddies and their healing circle leaders. My son bravely relived his trauma by sharing all of the details. Struggling to understand his unique loss, the other children asked many of the same questions over and over. His buddy and leader said he was kind and compassionate, and was an active listener when they shared their stories.
My daughter is filled with anger. Still struggling to make some sense of anything. Her healing circle leader offers her perspective the final weeks or hours or minutes of a person’s life do not define who they are, in an effort to allow her to find some memories that are good and let some of the more painful memories sift out.
How can I thank someone who had a dream and didn’t let it die? How can I thank all the volunteers, from big buddies to floaters to cooks to healing circle leaders, and the new leaders propelling Comfort Zone forward? Not just for giving their time, but giving themselves through their dedication to changing children’s lives in such a positive way?
I’ll leave it up to you, my readers, to help me do that with this appeal to keep making it possible for them to give. Please consider coordinating a workplace or church sponsorship of a camp.