February 21, 2020
I was hoping to get this out earlier, but between lots of things going on and the emotion my thoughts never quite came together.
Yesterday was 10 years since Natalie’s passing. The pain and the heartache of losing someone that you care about never goes away completely. My father passed at age 69, my sister passed at age 50, both younger than if feels like they deserved. The heartache that came with losing them is still there but has lessened over time. There is a sense that they had a good run. The heartache of losing someone a few days shy of her 17th birthday doesn’t seem to lessen. The shock is gone, but the heartache has not diminished.
Natalie was an amazing young person. She had a gentle smile for everyone. She seemed to know who needed a kind word and when to say it. She appreciated life; an early morning drive to a meet, time with her friends and family, laughing, a song, a hard workout,… In a world that seems to mandate that one thing must lead to something else, she seemed to be able to relish the moment as an end unto itself. It is hard to not wish that she gotten to experience more of life. Selfishly it is hard to not want just another day, or week, or year with her.
But heartache isn’t all that is there. There are the warm feelings of being fortunate to have spent time with her. There are wonderful memories that bring a smile, a laugh, a tear. And there is tremendous pride. Pride in how WE have moved forward. WE are her family. WE are her friends. WE are her teammates. WE are the Oshkosh YMCA. WE are everyone that has been to Natalie Camp. WE are everyone that has put on a purple cap, purple shirt, purple wristband, or worn the SUN on their back. WE are everyone that has heard the story.
WE have spent 10 years keeping Natalie’s spirit alive. Today her spirit is stronger than ever. Natalie has given us the opportunity to talk about what is really important in life. It isn’t those things like grades, or fast swimming, or how big your house is, but it is our relationships with each other, it is how we treat each other, it is how we serve each other that is what is important.
By simply sharing her spirit with the world WE have made a difference. Recently a young woman that participated in our first few Natalie Camps reached out saying, “I cannot count the ways that NKB Camp has taught me to be a kinder and more introspective person…when I share my experience I say that I feel like I wasn’t a person before NKB, but after I was truly able to look outside myself and make a better impact on the world.”
Long ago, I was taught that the spirit is eternal. WE have seen that; WE have been a part of that the last 10 years.
Sunday morning at 9:00 AM at the 20th Ave YMCA WE are going to do our Natalie Birthday swim. 27 of anything – feet, yards, 25s, 50’s,… - Natalie would have been 27 this year. Swedish pancakes afterwards. All are welcome swimmers, parents, friends,… The swimming is low key, just taking time to appreciate each other and the activity that Natalie loved. WE collect donations that fund the NKB Camp each summer. Anything is appreciated, nothing expected. All that is required is a smile, a kind word, a laugh,….