On Tuesday, I had the privilege of being a volunteer for arts & crafts on DA BOATA, which is otherwise known as the Camp Goodtimes cruise (on an Argosy boat). Argosy donates a cruise for each week of Camp Goodtimes, and it's a highlight of the week. This photo is of Katie's cabin in 2007.
I was a little bit nervous about going on the cruise.
It's been just two years since Katie and David were campers at Camp Goodtimes. That was right before we learned that she was going to die.
I wasn't sure how I would feel, being thrust back into that world. It's one thing to sew quilts at home and deliver them to the Childlife Department (we're not allowed to hand the quilts out personally, because of patient privacy laws, or I would do it myself). It's another thing to be thrust into the midst of over 100 lively, active kids, some of whom have cancer, some of whom are in remission, and some of whom are siblings of patients. I wasn't sure if hard memories were going to arise, if I would feel awkward, or be "no good" at volunteering there. (I don't know how a person flunks volunteering, but there you go. That's the way my mind works.)
Anyway, I was praying about it on Tuesday morning, so I picked up a book that our dear neighbor, Melanie, gave to me when Katie was in the hospital. It's a book about Mother Teresa, and it's called Mother Teresa's Reaching Out in Love. The story I turned to is called Professor of Love:
"Mother opened her first mission outside India in Venezuela. A rich family in Cocorote had given land to the Missionaries of Charity to build a home for orphaned children. When Mother Teresa visited South America, she went to thank the family. She noticed that their firstborn child was 'terribly disabled.'
She asked the mother, 'What is his name?'
'Professor of Love,' replied the mother, 'because this child is teaching us the whole time how to express love in action.' 'There was a beautiful smile on the mother's face as she said these words,' said Mother."
This helped me to be calm, to realize that each of the children I was going to see was a professor of love, too. In fact, everyone we meet has the potential to be a professor of love. We just have to be good students. So I relaxed, and asked Jesus to help me to do this.
I had a blast on DA BOATA. I saw children having FUN, being KIDS, in spite of the fact that they had cancer, or that their sibling had cancer, or their sibling had died from cancer. I helped some with crafts, but mostly I was just another friendly face in a crowd of unconditionally loving and accepting people. The counselors and nurses and other staff are some of the kindest, most open-hearted people I've met. They were there to help kids forget about cancer, and just have a GOODTIME.
Gunnar would have fit right in.
There was a DJ. Lots of dancing. There were fishing poles if you wanted to fish. We started on Vashon Island, and cruised to Seattle. We picked up David and a couple of others when we stopped in Seattle. Mooselips did a front-flip dive off of a pier. We sang. We danced. Photos were taken. People threw french fries to us from the pier. We cruised to Blake Island and saw the Native American Dance show. The kids played on the beach. We then cruised back to Vashon, let the kids and camp staff off, and started to clean up DA BOATA.
I had opportunity to speak with one of Katie's and one of David's counselors and the nurses. That meant a great deal to me. Many of the staff thanked me for the video that Mooselips & I made for them (about what camp meant to Katie and David, and how it blessed our family). I met other parents of children who have died.
I want to go back again next year.
On the way home, as we helped to clean the boat, music was blasting and the sun was setting behind the Olympic Mountains. The sky was hot pink and pale blue. The city lights were on. It was so beautiful that words can't do it justice. My heart was full. I thought about Katie as I stared out the windows at the sky and mountains. I sent love to her, and thanked her, because without Katie, I wouldn't have been on that boat.
This just might be one of the keys to life:
"God made everything that is made,
and God loves everything that he made.
The person who loves everything and everyone God made,
loves God because God is in every person.
God is in all things.
The person who loves everything loves as God loves."
- Julian of Norwich, "Revelations"