Fifty-Two Weeks Ago (part one)

Dearest Rachel –

I still remember our first visit to Camp Awana for family camp in the summer of 2019. I hadn’t been there since the fifth or sixth grade, I believe – or maybe it was the just the summer between them. We wandered the length and breadth of the place, discovering it was much smaller than what I remembered (but doesn’t everything get smaller as you get bigger?). I also realized that camping as an adult was a lot less fun than I remembered it being as a kid; but hey, for a handful of days, it wasn’t all that terrible – apart from the lengthy treks to the nearest bathhouse.

At some point, we climbed the hill behind the longhouse (where chapel services were held), and saw, for the first time, the wooden toboggan run, as it led down the largest hill in camp, practically disappearing into the woods below – with all the trees in full leaf, you couldn’t even see where it ended, especially since the run was surrounded by trees on both sides for most of its length. It looked to both of us as a scenic run, assuming you would even think to look around you as you slid down the hill pell-mell.

It never crossed either of our minds that the trees to the right of the run would pose any significant danger, to us or anyone else. It just looked like it would be fun to slide down, once the place was covered with snow.

The trees to the right have all been removed now, replaced by a line or two of old tires. Not to protect the tobogganers, of course, as they’re safely ensconced between the wooden railings – although, considering the bone-shaking trip we took down that chute only minutes before everything went wrong, ‘safe’ is a relative term (which is kind of the point – you don’t get the desired adrenaline rush without at least a slight sensation of danger). No, this setup is to protect and prevent anyone sliding down the main part of the hill from the same sort of accident that happened to you. These are the sort of changes that result from a tragedy like the one we experienced.

Now, I haven’t personally seen the tire bumper they’ve constructed in place of the line of trees. I’ve only seen them in the camp’s latest promotional videos, which shows kids sliding down the updated hill. I know it’s not an appropriate reaction, and I try to suppress it, but I have to confess to some bitterness at watching them enjoy something that I’ll never be able to again.

It isn’t even as if Daniel and I were big fans of winter sports in the first place; we would’ve been just as happy to stay home that cold winter day, but you had heard that the camp was finally opening for winter use after all the Covid mitigation protocols, and wanted to check it out. It’s not like I could ever refuse you, and it never crossed my mind that there would be any problem in going up there, just for the day.

It’s amazing to realize how the events of a single day define a lifetime. A single choice, one last turn… and everything changes, forever.

Now, whether you would consider what happened a tragedy is a matter of debate on this side (none of us have any idea how you’re really experiencing it); even if you might be upset to have been separated from me and Daniel (and Chompers, for the short while we could keep him going), the Lord is said to wipe every tear from every eye. There is no crying in heaven, so can your appearance there be considered tragic? Even the ‘fact’ that it happened ‘too soon’ for our preferences is inappropriate; where do we, as humans, get the right to suggest that God’s timing for this kind of thing is wrong?

We all will be on the other side soon enough, for better or for worse. Whether in ten minutes or a hundred years from now, everyone who reads this will leave this planet at some point. We just don’t expect it when it comes; even those dealing with terminal illnesses can’t plan the moment when they let go of their spirit. There might be many cases when a doctor will determine that a person won’t survive a night, but the actual moment itself? That’s too much to predict, even as that night – and the waiting therein – becomes agonizingly long, and the exit seems so far away.

And once those ten minutes or hundred years have passed, what difference does it make how soon each person’s departure was?

Except that… during those hundred years, the rest of us have to wait our turn to join you, and try to figure out what to do with ourselves in the meantime. Do I try and find somebody to take your place in my life? Can I even do that – not just do I have the right to, but do I even have the ability to find someone like that?

So many questions; so few answers. So much lost in so short a time. So much gotten rid of as well. Some things that might even be considered improvements, but that have come as such a high price. And all of it more or less worthless, given that it will be unimportant with my passing or Daniel’s. Everything turns to dust, so why bother?

Maybe I’m overthinking this; I should probably do something to get my mind off of it.

I hope you don’t mind too much, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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