When we think of camp letters, we expect ones about meeting new friends or being homesick. We can offer enthusiastic letters back, perhaps some conventional wisdom about how to get over their feelings, offer reassurance. But what do you say when your son sends home a letter saying that something REALLY bad happened at camp, and by “really bad” he means his friends were struck by lightning?
This is my attempt at a response. As much as I wanted to get in my car, drive there and hug him, I sent this off instead. I will wait until Sunday to get him, as scheduled. Most of the time, as a parent, I go with my heart. This time, I went with my head. While it may be in my best interest to pick him up, it’s in his best interest to stay.
It may not be the perfect letter, but it’s my best shot at comforting my child from 250 miles away. So here it goes…
I want you to know that I know all about what happened at camp and have been very worried about you, your sister and all of the campers there. I knew that you were not injured because I called the camp immediately on Saturday to check on you and your sister. Believe me, your safety is my top priority, whether you are here or away from me.
I know that this must have scared you very badly. I would feel the same way. I hope you know that you are in a safe place and as we have talked about many times, bad things can happen anywhere. Some things you can avoid–like putting yourself in a situation you know is dangerous–but there are some thing you just can’t help. This is one of them. In all of my life, I’ve never had anyone near me get struck by lightning. You will most likely go the rest of your life without ever having anything like this happen again.
As much as I would love to be able to protect you from anything bad, one of the biggest challenges as a parent is knowing that I can’t. Some day, when you are a parent, I hope you remember this and understand what I am trying to say. When something like this happens, it is easy to become fearful and spend your life worrying–but this isn’t going to help you. What will help you more is appreciating how rare this is to happen, what a gift life is, and living your life to the fullest, without fear as much as possible, enabling yourself to do all that you want.
I hope you are saying special prayers at services for the three campers. I know that I am saying prayers for all of them (and you and your sister) and thanking God that you are okay.
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you right now. You have less than a week left at camp so I would spend it having fun with your friends and enjoying the time left.
I love you more than you’ll ever know.