Too far away for something like this to be real

21 June 2011
I’ve mentioned previously that it’s my first summer not returning to Ramah Darom, my sleepaway camp and home for the summer. Old news.

It was yesterday evening that I heard. A friend from camp imed me, in fact. It’s awful that these days, social media seems to be the norm to find out that someone has died.

A boy drowned at camp Sunday morning. He was on a rafting trip. The same rafting trip I did my last year at camp. The same rafting trip my brother did last year for his Gesher year. And the same rafting trip some of my friends who are counselors, were on this Sunday.

Camp holds a special place within me. It’s where I developed my connection to Judaism. It’s where I learned to find me, where I met my best friends, where I met my first love. It’s where I spent my Gesher summer (my last summer as a camper) squeezed into a twin bed with my two best friends. It’s where I mommyed 80 nine year old girls for my two years as a counselor. Camp is a happy place. Camp is a safe place. Minus the swine breakout two years ago. And the bear last year. But we overcame those obstacles. It’s Ramah Darom. Parent’s kiss their children goodbye, never dreaming the kiss could be the last one.

Except for this boy; The first boy who has ever died at Ramah Darom. I feel the pain of his family, the pain of his friends, the pain of his counselors, the agony of our camp director who had to make the call. And the parents who picked up the phone on the other line.

What’s scary is that I can imagine  the boat capsizing. The campers swimming ashore only to find that their friend's body hadn’t made it. Searching for the body and lifting their unconscious friend out of the water. I can imagine it because I’ve been there. With my Gesher aidah. The same location, the same trip. What’s scary is that I know his counselors, the ones in charge of the trip, in charge of thinking on their feet when they discovered one of their boys had drowned.

We have staff week for a week before campers take over the grounds. Staff week was a few extra days this year. I had joked with my best friend that a longer staff week was excellent. Gave her more time to find that special hill time partner.

But no where in staff week are you taught what to do if your camper dies. Because it’s sleepaway camp. It’s magical as a kid. And an escape from reality as a counselor. Freak accidents don’t happen at sleepaway camp.

And now here I am, across the world. So removed from camp physically, yet connected by heart of emotion.

My mother had sent me an email this morning. I can sense her anxiety, her worry at having her sole daughter so far from home. I now have a greater understanding of where this motherly instinct stems from.

I want to send my children to camp. I want my children to explore, to travel, to see the world, leaving my protective arms. But I never want to get that call that the boy’s parents received Sunday morning.

I am in shock and for the first summer, I’m not in the community that’s bound together, grieving and attempting to heal. Part of me wants to be there. The rest of me knows I obviously can’t. But it also wouldn’t make a difference.

Life is weird. Life is short. Life is scary. I don’t know what to think.

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