Let me introduce you to one of Trenton’s friends – Elyssa (Ellah). One week each summer, Camp John Marc, located an hour-and-a-half outside of Dallas, hosts a camp for kids who have had heart surgery. The week is called “Camp Moss” and is staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses experienced with these kids.
Trent first attended Camp Moss at age nine and returned nearly every year into his mid-teens. These kids build friendships during the one week that extend throughout the remaining fifty-one. What the rest of the world perceives as a different kind of life is just normal in this gang, so there is an acceptance and understanding without the need for them to analyze it. Elyssa was one of the gang with which Trent could relate, thanks to Camp Moss.
How is Elyssa? She’s great, better than her mother. Elyssa has been in heaven for nearly three years, while her mom, Edie, is left with pictures, memories and the rest of her life without one of her daughters. Trenton and his Camp Moss friends attended Ellah’s funeral.
Recall one of my previous blogs in which I shared the value of being able to feel and understand another’s pain. Two years ago, Edie expressed her pain in a Facebook post that can help you understand.
Tomorrow will mark the one year “anniversary” of you leaving us. After tomorrow that "year of first" will be behind us. I’ve spent 364 days waiting and hoping that this first anniversary would help ease the journey… I’ve come to the realization that nothing, not even the passing of time, is going to make me miss you less. Dad is always so positive and I truly try to be… sometimes my days just suck no matter how much sunshine I try to pour into it. I will miss you until the day I draw my last breath but I promised you I wouldn’t let your leaving destroy me and I won’t. I try to make the glass half full by telling myself that after tomorrow I will be 365 days closer to seeing you again.
When you first passed away Dad talked often about how “lucky” we were… Lucky was not how I felt. Even the word “lucky” in a sentence to describe the situation made my blood boil! As my soul has settled I can see now exactly what Dad meant. You leaving us was not something we had control over but having it happen the way it did was bitter sweet. We were SO “lucky" to be able to say goodbye. Lucky that you passed away so peacefully. Lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people. Lucky that your medical team not only took care of you but truly loved you. Lucky that we were all surrounded by so much love and support. Lucky? Yes, but what a blessing as well.
One year ago today reality set in. I’ve been a nurse for a long time and still didn’t truly recognize what was happening in front of me. I know you were labeled “terminal” but I had prayed for one more rally. You had cheated death so many times before. You’d sent me home the night before - telling Dad “the lady needs to go home and sleep in her own bed”. We’d been up for days as your condition had deteriorated - first the recognition of a serious blood clot, then the diagnosis of necrosis in your hip joint. Physical and mental exhaustion were setting in. You would sleep for long periods of time, I just attributed it to exhaustion, I realize now that God was preparing you for your journey “Home". You would sleep for hours and be so difficult to arouse - then wake up like nothing was wrong. The night you sent me home your sweet Dad stayed with you while he tended to your every need - you were so weak you didn’t even have the strength to stand anymore. Dad recognized that the end was near before I did.
The day before you left us I slept late at home and was awakened by a call from Dad to ask when I’d be coming to the hospital - so unlike him to need me at the hospital, I knew something was wrong, especially by the sound of his voice. I rushed to the hospital calling everyone I could think of on the way. As I arrived at the hospital I was met by three of your care team that knew you well - Dr Barnes, Tracey and Susan. At that very moment I knew. I knew in my heart that it was time to say goodbye. I know that “God has a plan”, I just kept praying his plan would be the same as mine - that you’d flunk hospice, we’d laugh about it and you’d come home again. The team explained that they were getting things ready for you to go home to Rockwall… I almost collapsed. The thought of moving you was overwhelming and I knew in my heart that you felt safe at the hospital. I was thankful that the medical team agreed. We all decided that the hospital was where you’d want to be, where you felt safest. What a blessing to have you cared for by the best and the ones we knew loved you like their own. How lucky we truly were.
Friends came from near and far to say goodbye. Ruth drove sister down to be with us. Our friends swooped in once again to pick up the slack. Your, “super friend", Michelle, was on a bus from Austin and at your side in no time. Nick and Tessa, your college friends and many of your camp family arrived. Uncle Buddy and Uncle John were by your side by the middle of the day. Aunt Natalie was doing her best to get to Dallas. There were so many others I just can’t recall. Nurses like Sabra and Haley that have taken care of you and loved you too came to tell you goodbye. The day turned into night before we knew it. You would wake up and talk to us but you became weaker as the hours wore on. Your sense of humor never wavered - once while I was talking loudly to you - you smiled and said “Mom, you don’t have to yell, I can still hear you.”
Tomorrow is going to be tough no matter how hard I try for it not to be… Dad and I will spend the day together. We’ve decided to listen to your memorial service and watch the slide shows that were shown at the service. Then we are going to go to your favorite Mexican restaurant here in Orange beach to have your favorite - chips and queso. At 12:21 tomorrow our year of first will be done. One year closer to seeing you again.
My sweet niece, Savannah, posted this quote that just seems to say it all so well:
"There's not a stone in my heart I've left unturned. Not a piece of my soul that I ain't searched. The only answer I found for all this hurt is there ain't not an answer here on earth." -Dierks Bentley
What to do?
Elyssa’s twenty-fourth birthday is the twenty-sixth of this month, and her family would like to celebrate with “Ellah’s Day of Kindness.” Do something kind for a stranger, neighbor, friend, or family. Volunteer at a nonprofit. Pick up the tab for person next to you in line. Donate supplies to the recent flood victims. Anything. “Ellah loved life and loved helping others. This way we can make her birthday, or every day, a special day of kindness.”
For life – regardless of its length, for kindness – whether from friends or strangers, may we be still thankful.
P.S. “Elyssa first attended Camp Moss at the age of 8. Her last summer was spent as a counselor, then she came home from camp and was admitted to ICU. The only week she missed was the summer of her bone marrow transplant. When they told her she needed a bone marrow transplant she began to cry. Between sobs she let me know she had no worries about the transplant, she just didn't want to miss camp.” See here what great things are done for kids at this camp: http://www.campjohnmarc.org/