Mother-love at Camp (Building Blocks of Healing Series)
by Estey (Masten) Silva
My poor, sweet parents. Every year for almost 10 years, they drove my sister Megan and me to and from Crystal Lake Camps. On the way to CLC, my parents cried, lamenting how much they were going to miss us. On the way back home, Megan and I cried, lamenting how much we were going to miss our friends. I can just imagine them now – arriving to pick us up all gleeful and relieved – “whew! Our girls are coming home!” and Megan and I, sullenly hugging our cabin-mates, saying, “can I stay for another hour or two?”
You see, camp is a special place. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, or maybe you are not aware of this important information. Just thinking of the misty morning swims across the lake, racing through the trails on Olympic Games Day (Go Turtles!), and tentatively grabbing onto ropes and tires on the high ropes course… makes me sound like a bad soap opera, I know. But seriously! Camp rocks.
Let me tell you more specifics from my life. I had already been to camp for around 3-4 years when my mom suddenly passed on in September ‘98 (I was 10). Of course, my world pretty much fell apart. When camp season (aka summer) finally swung around the calendar, I was soooo ready to go and have fun. But it turns out that grief doesn’t really go away as soon as you hit the camp road. I was sad, lonely, and just completely at a loss about what to do next. But you know what? My counselors and cabin mates greeted me with HUGE smiles (as always) and aside from giving me an extra hug or two, never brought up my loss. They filled my days with sunshine – doing the monkey walk home (to Atira) after dinner, making up silly games, and tickling me until I was about to pee my pants (actually, I did pee in my pants once. Oops!).
During quiet hour I would sometimes start crying when one of my cabin-mates were reading Proverbs or Psalms passages from the Bible Lesson. My friends would just hug me and keep on reading—sometimes shedding a tear, too. I felt that real compassion, that simple affection that doesn’t need any words – it just communicates super clearly, “I’m here for ya.”
Even though I didn’t really like to talk about my grief, the healing process was definitely going on at camp. I remember one night I woke up with a horrible pain in my neck. I couldn’t move it without being in extreme pain. I just let out a little whimper and my counselor came right over to my top bunk (how did she know? She must’ve been really tuned in to the one Mind!). She sang some hymns to calm me and sent another counselor to get the camp mom/practitioner. The camp mom arrived and sang some more hymns! It was great. I have always loved hymns and found them the most comforting thing on earth. Each night, before she passed on, my mom would sing me a couple of hymns (to her own snappy tunes) and make my stuffed animals dance. So, to this day, hymns make me smile and forget my troubles, so they can melt away, back to their native nothingness.
The counselor and the camp mom were such pure, beautiful expressions of mother love that night, and before I knew it, the pain went away and I slept peacefully. I woke up the next day and did my 10 jumping jacks and 10 girly push-ups at flag raising—no problem! This experience taught me that mother-love is not restricted to one person – my counselors were my moms that night as they comforted and prayed for me.
When I left camp, the lesson of noticing expressions of mother-love stayed with me. Even now, 13 years later, I still often think of my mom and look for expressions of mother-love everywhere. And they are everywhere! I’m so grateful for this camp experience because it taught me to open my eyes to all the good around me.
I think the camp song, “Symbol of Serenity” encapsulates perfectly what I’m saying here—camp is a special place because it help you see God’s love for you. I’ll close with it:
Symbol of Serenity, Crystal Lake
Proof of God’s great love for me, Crystal Lake
Reflected in thy waters are the heavens above
To make thy songs and daughters
reflections of Love, reflections of Love.
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