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Inhale. Exhale.

I’m sitting in my car, telling myself that everything is going to be okay. Because it is, it will all be okay. Everything has a way of working out how it is supposed to, and sometimes you just have to pause and allow yourself to breathe.

Breathe, in through your nose out through your mouth. Ground yourself, feel your lungs fill and empty with the rise of your chest. Find something to distract you and remind yourself everything is going to be okay.

Out of all the places to pull over, what are the chances it would be this rest stop. The very same rest stop I pulled into two years ago to quickly scribble a message in a Father’s Day card had I completely forgot about. It was the first Father’s Day in years I would see my dad on, and I had my heart set on giving him a card. So, in my little Mini Cooper, I sat scribbling out a message to him using my dashboard for support.

Now, here I sit trying to calm my racing heart. Trying to remind myself to breathe.

In retrospect 14 isn’t that big of a number. In the grand scheme of things and the never-ending list of digits, 14 falls pretty early on. However, in terms of years of my life - as a 20-year-old - 14 is gargantuan.

14 is the number of summers I have spent at my summer camp. Right now, I’m sat in a rest stop not even 30 minutes away from the beautiful summer oasis that is Southwoods getting ready to spend my 15th summer there.

This summer will be my first where my father won't welcome me back to camp with a bone-crushing hug.

One is not a big number, but the weight of this one summer feels suffocating at times.

How do you prepare yourself for something like this? To go back to a place so full of memories of someone who is no longer here. How do you get ready to face a place they dreamt and built with their own two hands - that screams their name everywhere you look?

The answer is you don't. There is no way to. But, you must remind yourself to breathe, to inhale and exhale, and that even this you can get through.


Future Emma Here

Or maybe more realistically current Emma

Surprise, surprise - I made it through the day. I drove onto camp, drove through the gates, and completed my first day of staff training.

Was it hard at times, yes. Was it manageable, absolutely. Will I wake up and do it all again tomorrow, without a doubt.

My words from earlier were true. You aren't able to prepare yourself. But that doesn't mean that when that moment comes you have to (or actually will) lose control. Yes, it hurts to think about what isn't happening or what won't happen again, but it is up to you to let those moments be moments.

Live in those moments. Relish them and let them hurt. Allow yourself to acknowledge that "dang this sucks and I feel really sad" but then also acknowledge how beautiful it is that you do feel sad at this moment. That you have so many great moments to remember, to feel the joy of, which make these sucky moments feel less sucky.

For example, for the first time since my lower senior year (for you non-camp people that means for the first time in seven years) I did the zip-line at camp.

It was fast, it was fun, and if I'm being honest it was 10 times better than I remembered it (then again, I was 13 the last time I did it). I won't lie, I did think of Dad when I was walking back to my bunk after. It stung, remembering how excited he was when I told him I did it and that he wasn't here this time to tell again - but I remembered how big his smile was when I told him all those years ago. I remembered his deep baritone bellow of "Emma Kaye" and suddenly it hurt a little less.

Did it still hurt, yes. But it hurt less and that's all you can ask for.

Camp is full of dad. It's as simple as the fact that the sky is blue or that there are way too many announcements at line up (you non-camp people will have to trust me on this one). That is the beauty of Southwoods- that I get to remember those moments and feel close to him.

And when I need to, I can remind myself to inhale, exhale, and enjoy. Because camp will be over before I know it.

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Jul 06, 2021

Beautiful Emma, just like you. I hope camp is going well and that you, your mom and sisters will stop by to visit us when camp season allows. I love you all and surely miss your beloved dad.

love, Phyllis 💕

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