“See you next season!” she would call,
excitedly boarding the bus for home.
It was a joy to envision that warm smile
through cold winter nights, counting the days
to when Summer replays her refrain. The anticipation
made the Winters seem so cold and long.
Camp Good Days made a special time for sick children who long
for the adventures that their conditions would not allow. Call
it a service. Think labor of love! Young folk in this station
battling Hodgkin Lymphoma, life with cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome,
find a Summer home here. And for one so dear, Leukemia filled her days.
And yet she was never fully dressed without her beaming smile.
As I said, a labor of love, but never a chore – service with a smile,
you can’t call it work if it’s something you love. It wasn’t too long
ago that Kathleen was a “camper”. As a counselor, she spent Summer days
giving back the love she had long received. I believe it kept her whole. Call
her a good soul; a saint. An angel when the message came from her home.
Katie had taken a turn. In her mother’s voice…consternation.
For all she had anticipated, I could find no elation;
no celebration for the new year. No smile
to brighten sour days. No way to remove the shackles of home
for the escape the camp afforded. No boarding for the long
bus ride – songs and secrets, conversations silenced. The call
of roll without a familiar ring. A different Camp Good Days,
without the friend made and nurtured through Summer days.
In many ways, it feels strangely isolated,
yet knowing Kathleen answered the life’s Last Call
with her usual grace and humility, made me smile
at least briefly. She was chiefly responsible for my long
tenure as a counselor at a camp that gave these kids a home
away from home. And it felt like home.
There is a labor of love to perform as I remember the days
when Katie made her illness disappear a little, even though not for long.
We had a song that the kids sang that celebrated
the life they embraced. Each word will be laced with her smile.
Right up until Kathleen’s “See you next season!” call!
Children need a place that they can call sanctuary; a home.
An brief escape from their realities to fill their days with smiles.
For Camp Good Days, a moment long anticipated.
© Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016