Samuel is too little for the bikes. Still. Bold and charming, he will convince you to let him get up and hammer even though his ankles will likely be black and purple from uncontrolled pedals.
He’s grown a ton since last year, body and skull. Took me a while to recognize him with the new lush crop of hair. The rascally smile was familiar enough for me to follow him around like a creepy mall lady until I remembered.
Nothing can prepare you for the intense joy in seeing one of the kids from last years ride. This time there were many. Eric. Sam. Jason. You just never know though and that’s the risk you put your heart at in joining this annual cross country trek. A year is an absolute lifetime in a life ruled by this calendar we’re working from. For some, their last, and nothing can prepare you for the anguish of learning of the one that’s not ever coming again.
It is crushingly sad to find out that one of the kids is gone. We explode into communities and then barrel on to the next. After the tour the extra crew go back to their lives and their own communities until the next one. You hold the experiences tightly but lose your grip on the regions when you’re not in them. So each time you revisit, the updates can completely rock you.
These are the things that teach you what your heart is made of. Makes you proud of whatever you did somewhere in your youth or childhood that gave you this opportunity. To share in the extraordinary lives, behold the inside out souls of families, and for a while be submerged in their grief. Gets you to that answer that you’ve always quietly posed of yourself. Can I handle this if it gets real?
I said last year that I would never forget Naomi’s eyes. I haven’t. Wise. Determined. Soulful. Full of delight. Unphased. This is normally a stretch for an eight year old but, deeply philosophical: having or showing a calm attitude toward disappointments or difficulties
She got it from her Mama. The grace of her Mother who’s eyes told me something was going on last year but not her smile. This was a family the was absorbing life and moments and eachother. You’d catch a glimpse of something you thought you saw, but then it wasn’t there so you just trusted the joy that was bouncing around in front of you and let it be. Naomi was already in palliative care.
Kids are open to conversation, profound ones if you shut up and let them get there. A good starter is, and always will be, “What’s your favorite color?” Naomi’s was black. This coming from a kid that was all bright shiny morning light. Being that black was officially a shade and not a color, purple was a late entry back up favorite. Black and purple. Same colors as from when something hits you really hard.
After Naomi died four months ago, her family went to camp as scheduled. DJ and Pheobe, Mom and Dad. When you think about the camps we support, you think about kids in remission, recovering, learning to play again. Camp is also this. A place where families can sometimes go to recover and learn to play again. Like the kids that thrive in these places while their recovery is monitored.
A child getting cancer is a family diagnosis. Camp is where their treatment can be. Where you can wait out the healing in peace and where faith starts to seep in during that wait. Faith that things can start to fall back into place. Hammering on a too big bike. Not being afraid of the dark. Fist pumps.
You can see purple and black in the bruises from an absolute beat down. You can also see them in a beautiful morning sky like we are absorbing this morning driving through Jasper towards our next event. Black, fading through all the purples, then bright beautiful comforting morning light.