Last weekend, we were privileged to attend a very special party. It was a Luau, which was an item on the lifetime-wish-list of a wonderful young lady, Codi, who is currently being treated for her 4th ocurrence of cancer. If you were to look up “courage” in the dictionary, her photo ought to be there, right next to the definition. She is beautiful in a luminous and deep way. She reminded me of Katie, because the rigors of cancer treatment have not dimmed that beauty at all.
If you are a reader of my blog, you will know that my family and I are great fans of the American Cancer Society’s Camp Goodtimes West, on Vashon Island. Our children attended this camp, just weeks before Katie’s relapse, and it was a very important gift to them, and to us.
The camp staff are a wonderful group of young people, committed to making sure that cancer patients, their siblings, and former cancer patients all have a fabulous time, just being KIDS. They experience 6 days of fun, games, camaraderie, sports, a dance, skits, a carnival, a cruise and just “hanging out,” enjoying camp activities. There are nurses and an oncologist on staff, right on site. Having cancer does not prevent - or interfere greatly with - the fun at camp. For a brief time, kids can simply be one of the gang – instead of being so very different from other kids, because of their illness (and the worries and trials that it brings).
Katie was interviewed by the local paper while she was a camper at Camp Goodtimes West, and she told the reporter that she liked it there because people didn’t judge others if they had scars or an NG (nasogastric) tube (which she had). It was a place of acceptance. What a gift to a pre-teenager, whose life and appearance had been so altered by surgery and chemotherapy!
Back to the party: Codi has made a “Bucket List,” a list of things that she wants to be sure she accomplishes in her lifetime. One thing on her list was to attend a luau. She isn’t well enough to take a flight to Hawaii, so some wonderful friends from Camp Goodtimes decided to make the luau happen for her, here, in Washington State!
Hawaiian musicians and dancers came and sang traditional songs, danced the hula and taught a dance.
Friends gathered and brought food and drink.
Caring relatives & friends sent leis and decorations from Hawaii and other places.
People dressed in Hawaiian-style attire, and music played all evening.
Photos were taken; camp friends Skyped from other parts of the country, joining the fun.
See the "rabbit ears" on the computer screen behind Codi? That's one of her camp counselors, Skyping from the other coast!
There was laughter; there was singing of camp songs. There were "jazz hands."
There was celebration of friendship, and new friendships were made.
At the Luau, we learned from one of the Hawaiian ladies the meaning of “Aloha.” It is deeper than just “Hello” or “Goodbye.” The “ha” part of the word means “life.” So, we were told, when the greeting is exchanged, forehead touches forehead, and thus, we breathe life into one another, and we celebrate life.
It was a perfect gift for the occasion.
At one point, our host took the microphone, and pointed out that, although this luau was on Codi’s "Bucket List," and was arranged as a surprise for her, in fact, she had given all of us a gift in being able to share the luau with her. Her idea was a blessing to all of us, including the Hawaiian musicians and dancers who had never met her before, who learned about Camp Goodtimes West and its wonderful, supportive, loving, fun community.
Then Codi asked for the microphone. Our host brought it to her, where she sat in her wheelchair. She said she had one thing to say to all of us: “Aloha.”
Another item on Codi’s list is to help a complete stranger. She can check that wish off, too: she surely helped us, and changed our lives for the better, at the luau. I’m thankful to have been part of the party.
Aloha and God bless you, Codi and your family! May you achieve your dreams, including remission from cancer!