Snapshot at Year's End
The light changes. Days grow shorter. Leaves crunch underfoot like crumpled calendar pages counting down the last days of 2018.
I almost laugh out loud at the thought of 2018. Not a “ha ha” laugh, but one big exclamatory sound that is all at once both ironic and gut-wrenching. Illness, loss, grief; my memories of 2018 are painful. And precious—containing as they do the last time I held Steve in my arms, and the day I watched him take his last breath. That was March. In October, my mother died.
And yet, through it all, I have been lifted up by the love of family and friends and a community-wide strength unlike anything I ever experienced before. Steve’s loss as co-founder and long-time Executive Director of CAMP Rehoboth shifted the ground under our feet, challenging all of us in leadership and staff roles to focus, not on our grief, but on the work that needed to be done to ensure that the foundation Steve built was strong enough to weather the seismic disruption of his loss.
I am not the same man I was a year ago. CAMP Rehoboth is not the same organization. We are stronger, in some ways. More open to change. More focused on the future.
In the months since Steve passed away, CAMP Rehoboth has delved deeply into the work of a new strategic plan and an extensive staff analysis. The final component of that plan will be a community-wide survey released in December of this year. The survey will be sent to everyone on the CAMP Rehoboth mailing list, posted on Facebook, and made available on our website. (Please take time to respond and to share it with friends.)
Beyond the work of CAMP Rehoboth, I am discovering that I view the world around me from a different perspective. I listen to music I never heard before—and rediscover songs and genres I have not thought about in decades. Familiar books and movies seem strangely new and meaningful.
Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town, follows character Emily Webb through life, love, marriage, and her death. Despite warnings, she returns from the grave for one day to relive her joyous 12th birthday, an experience that becomes painful to her once she realizes that most people never appreciate life while alive. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute? (she sighs) I'm ready to go back. I should have listened to you. That's all human beings are! Just blind people.”
Yes, 2018 was tortuous and heartbreaking, but those last few months with Steve, difficult as they were, will always remind me to value every single moment we have with the people we love.
The modern world keeps us in motion—racing to keep up with the latest technology, juggling impossible schedules, bombarded by political outrage, uncertainties, and deep divisions that threaten to rip us apart as a nation. The world around us is impossibly bright, easily distracting us, and preventing us from making real connections with one another.
Connections we especially need right now.
Emboldened by the current political climate in our country, hate speech and the violence it inspires have become more visible in 2018. The antisemitism present in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is the latest example.
The Supreme Court now has a strong conservative majority.
The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to create a legal definition of sex under Title IX, based solely on genitalia at birth.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut have released the 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report and the news is troublesome. Seventy percent of LGBTQ youth report feeling depressed during the past week; more than 70 percent felt worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week; only 11 percent of youth of color believe their racial or ethnic group is seen positively in the US; over 50 percent of trans youth reported they can never use school restrooms that match their gender identity; only 26 percent of LGBTQ youth always feel safe in their classrooms; 67 percent report hearing negative comments about LGBTQ people from members of their families.
Clearly there still is work to be done.
Though the CAMP Rehoboth Strategic Plan is not complete, preliminary analysis of information gathered for it from community workshops, focus groups, and interviews reveals a strong awareness of CAMP Rehoboth’s efforts at building bridges and making connections with other organizations, as well as with government, law enforcement, and members of our own community.
It is apparent to us that CAMP Rehoboth is seen as a valuable asset for the community.
From the beginning, the concept behind the CAMP Rehoboth philosophy was a simple one: create positive attitudes about LGBTQ people by living open and honest lives with the people in our community. How we do that as we create a plan for the future is the exciting part of the ongoing conversation.
For me, 2018 began in desperate hope. It will end still in grief. I am grateful to have had work I am passionate about to keep me occupied in recent months, though I look forward to a time when I can find an artistic outlet to adequately express the intensity of emotions still rocking my heart and soul.
Just hours before I lost the ability to communicate with him for the last time, Steve managed to focus on me for a moment. “Did I die?” he whispered softly, confused by the lymphoma in his head and from the powerful, last ditch chemo treatment injected into his brain.
“No, not dead yet.”
He didn’t say anything else, but he had the funniest “cat that ate the canary” smile on his face and his eyes were wide open—like he was in on a secret, but couldn’t speak of it.
Somehow that look gave me hope, not that he was going to survive, but that he wasn’t afraid to die.
Love and peace to all this holiday season—may every, every moment count. ▼
Murray Archibald is an artist, CAMP Rehoboth Co-Founder, and longtime President of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors. He is currently serving as CAMP Rehoboth Interim Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Email Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org