Yesterday was one of the hardest, most powerful, most beautiful days of my life, yet another day when I was overwhelmingly grateful to be a part of the Deerhorn Family. Of the over 500 people who attended Derek’s service, at least a third of them were Deerhorn people, parents, staff, and kids of all ages. Almost all of his 2017 Voyagers came together in their Voyager shirts. They had all gathered the night before to spend the night together. Derek would have loved that. It was good to be together, to support each other, and to support Derek’s family in the midst of this crushing loss. Papa and Alex did a beautiful rendition of Country Roads that brought us all to tears. We laughed and we cried and we celebrated the life of one who very clearly made his mark on so many lives.
Although I am sure that Derek is touched by how much we will miss him, I also know he would not want us to grieve for long. Derek was always a “glass half full” kind of guy, always the optimist, always seeing the bright side of things. There are many lines from our Creed that describe Derek, because he lived the Creed every day of his life. To be kind because manliness requires kindness… to spread sunshine and good cheer…to greet the dawn with a smile. That guy was always smiling.
One of my favorite memories of Derek is from last summer. I was walking to lunch and wearing a crazy pair of yoga leggings. He said, very seriously, “I like your pants…. Where can I get some of those?…I could totally rock those.”
I didn’t always understand Derek’s fashion sense, but it exemplified what I loved most about him. He was always…unapologetically…authentically…Derek. He was always himself, never caring what anyone else thought.
The loss of Derek is unfathomable. We bargain and beg, cry and rage, begging it not to be true. We can’t believe he’s really gone. And I want to speak now to the campers who came yesterday, especially Derek’s 2017 Voyagers. This isn’t fair. The loss of someone so awesome and so young is one of life’s great injustices. I am glad you came, together, to mourn and to celebrate his life. And if the last day of each session has taught us anything, it’s that, actually, boys do cry… and that’s ok. The tears are evidence of a life that mattered. There is strength in those tears. The thirteenth century poet, Rumi, said “The wound is where the light enters you.” We all feel broken at Derek’s loss. My heart feels cracked wide open, thinking about camp without him. But I love that quote from Rumi, because Derek was a light in our world, and maybe, in dealing with his loss, we can let his light enter those broken places, helping us to heal, and helping us to spread that light to the rest of the world.
I have struggled this week, knowing how much to share about his loss without it being overwhelming. It’s hard to know when it’s ok to move on and begin sharing other stories. Derek was a big part of the Deerhorn Story. But it’s during times like these that I remember a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie that says, “You have to find what it good and true and beautiful in your life, as it is now.” And I think that is how we best honor Derek. Because he was one thing in all of our lives that was good and true and beautiful, and he would want us to seek out more of the same. Find what is good and true and beautiful in your life. Think about what you loved most about Derek, and treat others as he treated you. Reach out to the new guy, or the shy kid, or the one getting picked on. And in his memory, may we all treat each other with kindness and continue to Live the Creed.