Celebrating Life

After a summer of international traveling, I had a couple more trips I needed to make. These trips were about celebrating life, though not all aspects of this was easy.

First, a bonding trip with my housemates.  Not much has changed with us except that we’ve welcomed Caleb into our house for this year and we’ve changed houses.  Otherwise, we’re all in the same programs we’ve been in for a year now and enjoying each other’s company as much as always!

Two days after Caleb and I returned from Sweden, Joel, John, and Anna left for the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Caleb and I were exhausted and needed a couple of days to rest before meeting the other three halfway up Mount Washington.  We hiked in with packs, only 2.5 miles, but straight uphill, taking about 2 hours (note that I am also a HORRIBLE hiker…always have been).

John, Joel, and Anna’s view during most of their hike..

Lots of sweat later, we met our housemates on the trail with huge hugs and lots of stories. They had hiked all over The Presidentials and had quite a rigorous experience with lots of rain.  (Caleb and I made out pretty easy…we brought the sun with us!)  We enjoyed a night of beans and rice and stargazing before heading back down the mountain the next day.

Our next mission was a visit to Burlington, VT – a trip we had been planning for almost a year.  It was Joel’s birthday, so we filled it full with breweries and good food.  No one ever told me how awesome and hipster Burlington is!  It was quite a surprise to us all, and we promised to come back as soon as possible.  The end of our two days in Burlington involved a trip to the Magic Hat Brewery and a dip in Lake Champlain.  Both were fun, though Magic Hat was a bit of a disappointment, honestly.  Too commercial and too strict about their tastings!  Still, nothing will keep me from enjoying #9 and the bottlecap snips.  “Here’s a toast to a ghost.”

This short trip was a joy and quite a way to celebrate our house and look forward to a new year.  Only one thing could boost me up yet another notch: a trip to DC.

me n summer amanda

I needed to visit DC because there were lives to celebrate there as well.  My good friend Summer Amanda lost her sister unexpectedly this past winter, and a few months later, her brother-in-law died in a motorcycle accident.  They had four children who are now orphaned and being cared for by other members of the family.  It was important to me to take time to visit with Summer Amanda.  Another DC-area family that is a second family to me – the Horne Family – lost their oldest son this July in a climbing accident in Peru.

me n math

me n liz

my friend kristy

I’ve worked with the other three kids – Liz, Math, and Eric – at camp for many summers and have served on the Mar-Lu-Ridge Board of Directors with Papa Horne.  Ben was the oldest, most elusive of the Horne Family.  I adore that family so much that for quite awhile, Liz and I joked that I should marry Ben so I could officially become part of the family.  I only spent time with him once, in some sort of intense philosophical conversation.  His death was national news, an unanticipated tragedy that has called forth the sharing of his life as a beautiful reaction.  I was fortunate to spend this past Saturday with members of the Horne family, hammering open crabs in a true Chesapeake Bay style and reminiscing about Ben’s life.  The Horne family is a classic Mar-Lu-Ridge family, just like the Schlueters.  I’ve worked at camp with my friend Kristy for many summers – a job destined for her as her parents met at MLR.  Shortly after my dad made it through his bout with cancer about a year and half ago, Kristy’s mom was diagnosed with Leukemia.  I felt so close to her situation, as it was similar to my dad’s, and I followed her CaringBridge site closely to read about her first bone marrow transplant, which didn’t take, and then her second.  It was heartbreaking to read her entry the day the doctors sent her home and said there was nothing else they could do.  And finally, this past Thursday, Jay Schlueter lost her life.  And so, I was called to DC by powers other than my own to celebrate the lives of Summer Amanda’s family, Ben Horne, and Jay Schlueter.  This was a lot for such a little girl to handle, I will willingly admit that, but death is no stranger in my past, and with God’s strength, I feel able to crawl my way through these tragedies once again.  And while they are full of sadness, they are also about celebrating incredible lives, and so I am thankful.

DC did not greet me only with sadness, but also with joy.  While I was there to mourn losses, I was also there to celebrate the engagement of my friend Nick Krafft, the recent marriage of my friends Daniel and Laurel, the baptism of my friend Greg’s son, and the marriage of Pastor Karen, my former supervisor at Luther Place Church.

Today, I am especially thankful.  Two years ago, my dad received a stem cell transplant in an attempt to cure his incurable cancer – multiple myeloma.  And today, I received a text message from him that shared that his doctors are finally using the phrase “long term remission” to describe his situation.  What an opportunity to celebrate!

And so I think that now, finally, I am ready to head back to school.  I have been reminded this summer that life is much bigger than me or Yale.  And I remember God’s promise, that while weeping may last through the night, joy comes in the morning.

My dad always praises my seldom-written poetry.  So in celebration of his life today, and in celebration of the marriage of Pastor Karen and Ed, I end this post by sharing my most recent poem:

Blessed Be
a poem in thanksgiving for the marriage of PK & Ed

One creative soul for another
hands dug deep
planting
restoring
giving life
life given for us
life and love and now we receive
hands open
bread which we grasp
dirt beneath fingernails
our hunger being filled
by one who led us to each other
stomach fuller
heart fuller
lives fuller
ready to work
to dig deeper
and now together
held up by a community of witnesses.

God says
You did not choose me
but I chose you.
Blessed be this union
that blesses us
chosen by God
sprouting from the earth
reaching for the sun
displaying beauty
strength
grace.
Blessed be this union
that blesses us.

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