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The Light We Share

The Light We Share By: Vicky Wittman

“There are some who bring a light so great to the world, that even after they have gone, the light remains.” - Unknown

We were incredibly lucky this year to host the annual fall camp during the peak color season for autumn leaves. I’d like to say this was intentional, but in truth, I personally selected that date to avoid the camp weekend from falling on my dad’s birthday; a sentimental day for me each year.

Every October 23, I recall my first job of working at a floral store. My dad’s birthday was approaching and as a 14 year old girl, I had no idea what to get for him. I remember coming home from work that day, presenting him with a floral arrangement of red roses, leather ferns and baby’s breath. This was perhaps an odd gift for a middle aged man, but when I said, “I wasn’t sure what to get you,” he immediately responded, “Wow, these are perfect! No one has ever gotten me flowers before!” Every year since, he’s received a new arrangement of flowers. This year of course was no different.

Dad would have turned 76 this year. That sounds so odd to me, considering his age has been frozen in time for almost two decades now. In my mind, he’s still a youthful 58 year old man. I guess it will be even more strange when I myself turn 58 …or 59.

At Camp HOPE, we challenge each other to think of one thing that we brought with us to the weekend, but want to leave behind. Each camp, I find myself wishing to leave behind something different. This time, I chose Anger. I find it easier now to talk about my dad and his death with pretty much anyone and not get teary. I thought this was a sign I must be healing and moving past the pain. -But during our candlelight service on Saturday night, I lit my candle in memory of my dad, wished him a happy birthday and then cried. The emotions flooded over me as each of the campers lit candles for the amazing person(s) in their life who is also missing. I shook my head as I held my dad’s candle and realized I felt upset for the first time in years. I thought to myself, he should still be here.

As part of the closing ceremony on Sunday, over 100 of us yelled out over a lake, the word for what we each chose to leave behind. The lake was hugged by trees, bursting with leaves of every color; a powerful scene for such a healing experience. Our words were thrust from our bodies, quickly floated across the water and whispered back at us as they echoed: Anger… Sadness… Fear… Guilt. And just like that, the air felt cleaner and lighter. We could all breathe much easier again. And then, the camp weekend was over.

As I traveled an hour and a half across the rolling countryside back to my home, I smiled. I thought to myself how incredible the weekend went, how much fun the families had and recalled all the individual breakthroughs the campers experienced. This is the magic of Camp HOPE. A weekend at Camp HOPE, surrounded by nature and nurturing hearts, provides an environment powerful enough to transform anger, sadness, fear, guilt into the type of hope and joy that can be carried on and shared with others forever. Although my dad is no longer here to share his light, I can still carry his virtues within me and share them at Camp HOPE and with others. I can continue to spread the type of goodwill he once possessed, and that way, his light will live on forever.

"Like a great light brought to the world, that light will always remain."


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