Crater Lake is the bluest blue I’ve ever seen. Deep and clear it reflects the cobalt sky encircled and contrasted by towering dark cliffs. It moved me.
Josh had never been camping before. Well, unless you count the night in the snow cave last winter where we froze all night and he promptly broke his arm early the next morning! Anyway, he’d been telling me he wanted to go camping. He’d heard all the stories of our camping adventures with the girls from their infancy right up until the late 90’s. When my husband went into fulltime ministry, for some unclear reason we just stopped. Maybe it was the transition of moving our family into my husband’s calling. After all; most summers found him in East Africa. Josh came along in 2000 and the girls began to travel with their dad to the African continent. Then came the cancer and two years of frequent hospital stays, survival, recovery, loss, post traumatic stress, grief, chaos and uncertainty…emotional upheaval all mixed in with faith.
So we squeezed Crater Lake in between two commitments in southern and eastern Oregon, threw a tent, some sleeping bags, pads and old cooking gear into the back of our car! Setting the tone for our one night two day adventure was the pleasant surprise of discovering it was a FREE weekend in the National Park. The three of us, hiked in wildflowers and along the rim of the stunning lake, swam and fished in the icy blue liquid, built a fire, cooked hot dogs and s’mores and marveled at the star studded sky. Josh talked and talked, full of questions and comments now that he was away from video games, TV and computers. And we could listen and try to answer him now that we were away from work, commitments and meetings. The time was precious.
It was strange without our girls, though, each of them busy with their summer jobs and activities and yet it seemed right and natural, just the three of us, mom, dad and son. It’s almost as if we have two families, two sets of memories, one with the girls and one with Josh. Oddly enough, our strongest memories of all seven of us together center around cancer: Make-A-Wish, the House in the Trees, and radiation in California, Disneyland, and Lego Land.
But one moment stands out stark and weighty on our Crater Lake camping trip. Touring the newly remodeled lodge, we marveled at its loveliness. Josh was totally engrossed in answering three pages of questions in order to earn his Junior Ranger badge, so he sat in a comfy chair in the lobby and I settled in next to him in the warm sunshine. As I began to watch the people around me in the busy lodge I suddenly saw her…it was Lesly…Lesly Foster…as I remember her, brown skin, dark curly brown hair, beautiful brown eyes, same build, and similar sweet round face. Tears slid down my face as I watched her...knowing it wasn’t her. Feelings of sorrow and grief and loss overwhelmed me. The ache of missing her was strong and then I thought of her parents and their ache, unfathomable. Everything came rushing at me at once of our journey with childhood cancer, of all the families I knew and what I knew of their journeys too. I couldn’t stop the tears and I hoped the little girl’s mother didn’t see me staring and crying.
I sat there for what seemed like a long time, when my husband showed up. He looked at me and I pointed the little girl out and quietly said, “Lesly”. He looked over, saw her and began to cry too. Josh heard me, looked up, saw her and said, “Awww” with deep feeling and then silence. Slowly and quietly we left the lodge each immersed in our own thoughts.
Out of the clear blue…