This past Sunday afternoon I went on a prayer walk with my daughter. This in itself is unusual given I do not actively pray a whole lot and if I exercise I am more inclined to run than walk. Despite these inclinations it was sunny and quiet and with my daughter wrapped in a blanket we walked through a snowy wooded trail.
My prayers developed into a mini-biography of my life. Themes of gratitude and thankfulness pervaded my thoughts and words. I covered a great many things with an obvious focus on my wife, marriage, and my baby who was peacefully looking around in my arms throughout. But in addition to this the thing that came up again, repeatedly and forcefully, was my experiences at Camp Sandy Cove.
I’ve written a lot about my summers at camp and my journey from being a camper, to a counselor-in training, to cabin counselor, to leadership staff. The memories, the experiences, the friends, the growth, the impact camp has had on my life. When I found out last October that Camp was closing effective immediately, it truly was devastating to me and I know many others. 69 years of operation create a lot of impact in people’s lives.
This past Saturday I flew down to the Philadelphia area to attend the final celebration dinner for Camp. It was a fantastic time to remember, reconnect and yes, celebrate the history and impact of camp. The long running directors of the camp (plus many others I am sure) put on a meaningful and fun night.
I was asked by the director to be a speaker at the event, something I was deeply honored to do. I spoke about the impact of having the program director plant the idea in my head that I could be leadership staff. I also discussed how my career as a teacher keeps the impact of camp going as I positively speak into the lives of my students. Other speakers reiterated the great memories and impact of the camp experience.
As positive and honoring as the night was I also feel the need to identify with the feelings of sadness that the permanent closing of camp also raises. It is undeniably true to say that the beauty and fun and impact of camp will live on in the people who experienced and made it happen. But one of the true joys of camp was the temporary, brutally intense environment it created that brought together a staff and campers into a vibrant, spiritual, and even intimate place together. That connection as a group of people creating the Camp Sandy Cove experience each summer together will never happen again. There is a very tangible, even visceral loss here that I believes need to be acknowledged and grieved.
I have a final memory I want to put down in words to close these thoughts about camp. On the final night of our camp program in my last year of staff in 2012 we had a carnival like activity. The field was filled with staff run games that campers walked around and enjoyed. There was a speaker near my office blasting music to create a fun atmosphere. I remember near the end of the activities really getting into the music and just savoring the atmosphere. Camp was over soon and I wanted to enjoy every last drop. By noon the next day all the campers and most of the summer staff were on their way home.
The beauty of camp is also the source of the the sadness and grief I think many of us have felt over the previous months. The intensity, the connections, the fun always came to an end. I imagine there’s a lesson there for us about life and spirituality too but I’ll save that for another writing.
We celebrated Camp Sandy Cove this past weekend both because of the fantastic memories and the undeniable grief that experiences quite like what we experienced will never happen again. I am ultimately sad that camp is permanently over but man am I glad that I got to play a part. I think there are a great many people who would say the same.