If life were fair and just, you would be here right now. We would be playing ultimate frisbee with you on the soccer field on Sunday mornings, and listening to you and Papa sing at the campfire. We would be laughing at your hilarious counselor show skits, and paddling canoes with you out on the lake. But wishing it with our whole hearts won’t make it happen. If only it were that easy. We miss you. Every day. But while there is great sadness in your absence, there is even greater joy that is inherent in a summer at Deerhorn. You would be proud of us for continuing to laugh, to love, to rock out at the campfire.
Everywhere you look, friendships are being made, just like yours with so many others, especially Papa. All around camp, kids are reaching out to new friends and helping them to feel welcome at camp, just like you did in your never-ending-quest to include everyone. Our incredible staff is focusing their energy on these kids and making sure they have the best summer ever, just like you did. And all over camp, there are kids proudly sporting their new Hawaiian Deerhorn shirts, with your initials on the sleeve.
I love looking around camp and seeing those bright, colorful shirts, full of energy and life, just like you. It’s not as good as having you here with us, but it is a reminder that we should continue to “spread sunshine and good cheer, just for the fun of it.”
The sun is shining and there has been blue sky for days. The first campfire of the summer, an osprey flew over the campfire ring , and many of us felt your presence. Papa and Trevor sang the Redemption Song, and we got chills as we watched Papa with another kind, funny, afro-ed friend. We know you are here with us, but we still miss you. I think Colin Morabito said it best in a letter he wrote in remembrance of you:
“While I didn’t know that it would be the last time I saw you, I know that it will not be the last time that I see you. I’ll see you in the lodge during every counselor show skit. I’ll see you at the campfire whenever someone like you has the guts to get up there and sing and play the guitar. I’ll see you in Goodwill whenever I see a crazy shirt, or a funny jacket, or an oversized painting of a mountain that you think will “look awesome hanging up above my bed” in the koogee. I’ll see you on the soccer field every Sunday during Ultimate Frisbee. I’ll see you in the office at camp late at night waiting for the 3rd Dominos driver to deliver way too many pizzas. I’ll see you in the campers that you encouraged to be themselves by just being yourself. I’ll see you in our friends by the way you taught us how to live life without taking it too seriously, because there’s always room for a laugh no matter the circumstance. We will see you, Derek… in the people you’ve touched, the memories you’ve made, and the lessons you’ve taught.”