In various forms I have heard the phrase “I know there are not words to make you feel better,” spoken over and over again in the days since my husband and CAMP Rehoboth cofounder Steve Elkins passed away. Invariably, it is followed up by some of the most eloquent and genuine expressions of comfort and grief that I have ever heard. In cards, on Facebook, on Steve’s memorial page, and in the press, I am finding peace in the words being shared about Steve. I feel embraced by an entire community, and for that I thank you.
This is issue three of the 28th season of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and the first one in almost all of that time that Steve did not contribute to in one way or another. Right up to the point when he could no longer speak at all, he was giving me advice on how to proceed. This was his baby, and he nurtured it for decades.
The day I first met Steve something settled in my soul, and we have been Murray and Steve—or Steve and Murray—ever since. (We did have an acquaintance along the way, who once said to a mutual friend of ours: “I know Stephen Murray, but what’s the other guy’s name?”) I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to just be Murray again, but quickly understood in the days after his death that I would always be Steve and Murray, for there is no erasing our 40 years together. In many ways, we were as different as night and day, but that was our strength as a couple. Our compromise point with each other helped us both to understand and create better relationships with others—and to do the work we do at CAMP Rehoboth.
My soul is still settled, even without him—simply because of him.
From the first chapter in the story of CAMP Rehoboth, we began to create the verbiage that would become the defining language of CAMP Rehoboth: Creating A More Positive, Room for All, “safe and inclusive communities” and “Rehoboth is a family town, but families come in all sizes, shapes, and orientations.” At some point during that first decade, I remember suggesting to Steve that he change the stories he was telling to keep things new and interesting. He refused, instinctively knowing that only by telling our stories again and again would they become embedded in the foundation of our organization.
A quick glance at all the news stories that came out in the wake of Steve’s death, show how well his instinct served us over the years. His stories and his language are all still here—as is his presence, and the influence he had on CAMP Rehoboth and on all of us.
In our many years together I never had a boring day. We learned over time how to both live and work side by side and to grow our relationship in the process. He made me laugh, and he made me weep. Though he probably never thought about it, he taught me to control my youthful temper. He kept me from being too far out in left field and I kept him from being too buttoned down. We would laugh that it was a good thing we found each other, because no one else would put up with either one of us. I will miss him to the day I die.
I will also do my best to find and nurture the talent we need to carry Steve’s legacy and passion for CAMP Rehoboth into the future.
Throughout the last six months of his life, Steve never gave up. His doctors threw everything they had at his lymphoma; nothing ever slowed it down. But nothing ever slowed down his spirit, either. Right up to the end he kept the word “trust” emblazoned on the wall of our office and in post-it notes in our bathroom—and in his heart.
It is fitting that the photograph on the cover of this issue shows Steve with a heart in his arms—which is right where we could always find it. He always had mine.