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  • Summer Camp

    I guess Penni must have picked up on some wisdom from other camp moms when she announced her idea of hiding a little love note between Noah’s underwear and his new swim trunks. Noah was nine years old and this would be his first, week-long camp experience. Not wanting to be out-parented, I also put an envelope in Noah’s suitcase. I just jammed my envelope toward the bottom.

    All week I worried if Noah would be homesick and waited for the phone to ring. Friday was here before I knew it. Noah walked into the house and you could tell he had a good time. Story after story broke from his lips and then I interrupted. “Did you open the envelope?”

    “Yea dad,” he replied.

    Wondering, I asked, “Well, what did you think?”

    “I held it every night before I went to sleep.”

    This past week Linda the social worker from Walk With Me called. She asked if I could stop by and see a family at our local hospital. You see, Walk With Me is a pediatric hospice and palliative program and I am a graduate. Our son, Evan died a couple of years back; I now have a strong passion to help other families on their journey.

    Before I went to see them I wondered what I would say. While working in my wood shop I remembered the story about Noah and the envelope. I soon found myself taking some old Redwood I reclaimed from a deck on Lake Michigan and cutting it up into small pieces about the size of a harmonica. I then split each of those pieces in half creating a mirror image of the other. In woodworking we call that, “book matched,” a technique often used when making fine violins or the interiors of Rolls Royce’s.

    So when Noah opened his envelope there was no note but a small piece of Redwood with all of the names of the other members of our family engraved there: mom, dad, Chelsea, and Evan. On the mirrored piece I kept, I had the name Noah written on it.

    You see, I hoped when Noah opened his note from me he would be reminded of his family. My plan worked. While he was holding onto his each night, I was holding on to mine and then laying it on my bed stand while I slept.

    During my visit with the family I told them about the wood and gave them a sample asking if they had any ideas how this could help families especially if a parent had to leave their child. While the dad and I talked the mom was standing at the nurses' work desk. Within about fifteen minutes she had asked for ribbon, a pair of scissors, and some markers. Luckily I had come prepared.

    When she was done she showed me. When she put both pieces together like pages from a book her creation was an assembled heart. Each stick had its own inscription. One side said, “Love ties us together,” and the other “Even when we’re apart.”

    I just loved what she had done. I told her to keep it and to send me a picture. I’m hoping this may be a new way to help families who are on the journey of having a child with a life-limiting disease.

    And if you’re wondering, Evan had a piece of Redwood too with all our family names on it. My half is still on my bed stand and Evan’s was buried, neatly nestled in his folded hands.
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