Touch of Nature is a different place in the summer. The serene explodes with the sounds of children's laughter. It is the home of Camp Little Giant, a week-long camp for kids with disabilities. Kids who, all their lives have lived within the structure of "the Plan" (the individualized educational plan, the therapy plan, the safety plan, the transition plan....), are suddenly free to just to be a kid. Parents who have risen to the daily challenges of raising a child with a disability are suddenly given respite for 5 days and nights.
Emily first went to Camp Little Giant when she was 13. I'd been talked into sending her. My husband had said it would be good for her, that she'd have fun and the bonus, we could have some time alone. I was sure that the counselors would call me to come get her the first day. But they didn't call the first day or the second, or the third. They didn't call at all.
We were both set free that summer. I let go of some of the control I had been holding and learned to trust others with Emily's needs. I let go of the fear within me that said "what will happen to Emily when I am no longer able to care for her?" and learned to trust that God would have someone else if I wasn't there. And I learned to trust Emily. She was growning up, just like typical kids do, and I recognized that she needed independence from me, just like typical kids do.
And Emily, she came home a different person. She was proud of herself, proud of her independence It was as if she had grown wings.
Emily went to camp at Camp Little Giant for three summers. The year she died, we gave her reservation to one of her friends and prayed that it would bless their family as much as it had ours.
It's been six years since I've been to Touch of Nature. Yesterday, I went there to attend a mandatory workshop for my job. In the days leading up to the event, I told myself "You can do this". But even with that preparation, I had no idea it would be so hard. Just driving into the camp, memories flooded my mind and throughout the day, my eyes rode the waves.
During a break in the meeting, I walked the paths where Emily had walked. I found the cabin where she had stayed. I laid down in the bed in which she had slept. I let open the cage in my heart where grief resides and let him run free. I felt the torment, the anguish all over again. Although grief is with me always, and it's OK, even needful, to visit with him at times, he is not who I want as a constant companion. so, after a few minutes, I put grief back in his cage, and locked his door.
When I rose, it felt good to have torn off the scab, to drain the wound. The healing continues.