I miss you daddy. I wake up everyday when all of a sudden the harsh reality sets in. My best friend, my hero, my dad is dead. It has been just under 4 months since my dad has died but yet these emotions of anger, sadness, confusion, frustration are all very palpable day in and day out. I miss talking, laughing, playing, and learning from my dad. I am scared to experience life without my dad. He was the one I turned too for support, guidance and advice. I find myself asking how will put the next foot forward? How will I make the right choice without his guidance? How will I know the answers to my questions without him there?
I, like many of you thought “I am okay” “I will get through this” “ I don’t need anyone’s help” But then I came to the Kennybrook Experience. I too was scared and apprehensive about coming. But then I met the amazing staff. I participated in circle time with a bunch of my peers who I didn’t know. I was able to open up to a bunch of people who I have only known for a few hours. I was telling them things I wouldn’t tell some of my closest friends. I am not entirely sure what drove me to do this but I think it had something to do with the Kennybrook magic. That magic made me feel at ease and made me feel comfortable. I was not even here for 8 hours but I knew this place was special.
The moment the kids stepped off the bus headed to the basketball court I knew I was in the right place. The feeling I felt so many other times at my previous camp. Excitement, nervousness, but mostly eagerness to get the week going.
The energy, the enthusiasm, and the excitement of camp brought me right back to my element. I was having fun and living like a kid. The outside world didn’t matter. I forgot about work, I forgot about my problems, but most of all I forgot about the loss I was feeling. Then circle time ensued, a time where 4 counselors, 8 campers, and 1 clinician had a safe space. A space where we can let all our emotions out and feel them together as one cabin. To hear every single one of my campers share a piece of their story was not only touching but it was also reassuring. I was reassured that there are others like me going through the same thing I am going thru. I am not the only one dealing with these emotions and feelings that I am currently feeling. Shortly after circle time concluded the kids were back laughing, playing and having fun and putting our discussions we just had on the back burner and forgetting the stresses of the outside world. To me that balance is like no other. No other place are you able to empathize with your brothers and then five minutes later laugh over something silly. Personally I need that balance, with such sadness I need happiness. I have truly found that perfect balance at KenEx.
I look out at you 40 kids and am absolutely amazed. I was lucky enough to have my father for 24 years of my life. He has given me the tools to succeed in life. He taught me how to be a man, how to respect people, and how to be kind. While I was fortunate enough to have my dad to teach me and to mold me into the man I am, many of you don’t have that figure in you’re life to teach you. Yet so many of you have those tools, you are so kind, respectful, and amazing, I commend each and everyone of you. I wanted to come to camp and teach kids how to better themselves but I think the opposite has unfolded. You guys taught me about myself. You have taught me how to open up, how to be a better person, and how to open back my heart to love again. While no one can take the place of my dad I have found ways to use that part of my heart again and that void is filled by all of you. =
I was having a conversation this week about the power of helping others. While I am going through my own grief, I have been able to manage that and help my campers with their grief. For me that has been the best medicine and the best coping strategy . Taking the pain away from others and helping bring just one smile to a camper’s face is helps me cope and is helping me heal. I can’t even begin to count how many times I have heard or I have said “ That’s why we come to camp” It are those smiles, those laughs, those tears that make this all worth it.
Often times I don’t like talking about my father’s death. It is uncomfortable people don’t get it. I have a found a safe place here where people do get it. A place where I can talk about things, a place where I can cry and have 50 other people picking me up and comforting me. I think the KenEx magic is real. As soon as you enter this place, nothing else matters. Religion, race, background all go out the window and we stand here connected. We are all connected by a loss, a loss none of us wish we had. However, this loss has brought us here, this loss has connected every single one of us. And for that I am thankful for.
I couldn’t have asked for a better week with better kids. I am just so amazed by how awesome all of you are. I have learned so much about all of you. Your willingness to talk and share is a gift I encourage all of you to keep. In doing so I have learbed more about myself I could have ever imagined. My family’s mantra is you have two options
1) Curl up in a ball and let the situation win
2) Get up everyday live life to the fullest and live the way dad would have lived
You guys have all picked option number 2. For that I am proud. If each of you can live life to the fullest (wish you have all have this week) then so can I. Thank you for giving me the strength I have been yearning for since my dad has died. With darkness comes light. Thank you for everyone who has made this camp possible.