~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

The Camp Widow 2012 Message Releases

At Camp Widow East this year, we did something that was new at the time, a message release. In our conference bags they'd given all of us a glass heart, along with a small piece of paper and a piece of string to tie them together. We wrote whatever we wanted on the paper, wrapped it around the heart, and tied it with the string. Then after the banquet on Saturday night, we all took our hearts with us as we headed out past the pool and down the wooden sidewalk that lead right onto the beach. It was great: we were all in our finery, most of us barefoot in the sand (having left our shoes under a lamp by the pool), with glow sticks around our necks (so no one would get lost...genius!). And then, individually or in groups, standing back or wading in, at whatever moment worked for us, we hurled our message-encased glass hearts into the ocean. It was a great moment.

The thing is, what I remember about it, more than I remember the moment I threw that glass heart into the sea, is that I walked into and lived this experience with my beautiful new friend Kris, which is a good thing, but also that I was a little distracted--by laughing with Kris, by thinking about a CW attendee that I'd started to admire (and no, I'm not going to tell you who it is). It's not my biggest regret in life or anything (ha!), but I kinda wish I'd focused a little more, gotten more "into" the experience.

That was Camp Widow East.

At Camp Widow West, we again had a glass heart in our bag and were told there'd be a message release, but this time it it was going to be on the terrace. In other words: the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina, while it is near the water, is not right on the beach. So I kept thinking, "How are we gonna do this message release? We can't throw glass hearts from a few stories up!"

And, once again, I had paid a little less attention than I now wish I had. (Geez, what is my problem?!?) I hadn't read the note was inside the bag containing the glass heart, explaining the ritual--in truth, I hadn't known there was a note in there--so I didn't know that a) there were actually 3 hearts in there (and 3 small, blank pieces of paper) or b) that we were supposed to write one of the following on each: something you want to get rid of, something you were hoping to gain from Camp Widow, and something you're grateful for. Someone explained it to me right before we walked to the terrace, so I quickly wrote mine out and hurried to join the crowd already gathered on the terrace, listening to Michele explain how it was going to work.

It turns out they had 3 fire pits set up on the terrace, in a straight line but spaced apart, and we would walk to each one and toss one of the wrapped hearts into the fire by turn: in the first one, the thing we wanted to get rid of; in the second, the thing we wanted from Camp Widow, and in the third, the thing we're grateful for. 

Though I'd gone into it in a hurried, distracted way again, this time...I was unprepared for how powerfully this ritual would affect me.

Michele had asked everyone to do this quietly, so it could be a contemplative experience. And we did. It was amazing: a few hundred people, all virtually silent, as we carried out our personal ritual within the larger one, as we huddled in groups just taking in the event or went off by ourselves. I loved that silence. 

I'm not going to name what I wrote on that first piece of paper; suffice it to say it's a negative emotion. And as I waited behind others at the first pit, as I stared at that fire, as I dropped my wrapped heart into it, all I could think was, "I really do want to get rid of this." The tears came up from so deep and they came so fast and so strong, I was caught off guard. 

I can't remember exactly what I wrote on the second paper, but I know it had to do with the connection, the friendship, even the love we share as widows. Those 3 words are points along a continuum; they're all part of the same thing: the bond that the widowed share. It is like no other bond I have ever experienced. It's practically instant, it's very deep, and it is incredibly strong. Even for a widowed person I had a connection with but not even friendship yet, I would go to the mat for them if they had the need and I had the means to help.

I do believe I wrote "friendship" on the third paper. (Did I repeat myself from the 2nd paper? That's unlike me, but while I can't remember exactly, that's what my brain is telling me.) I do believe friendship is what I was most grateful for in that moment. Being surrounded by so many widowed people, many who have genuinely become my friends...I was and am so grateful for them and for the people and forces in my life that took me from a relatively alone-feeling place to Camp Widow the first time to meet all of them and become a part of their lives and they a part of mine.

And the spontaneous hugs when one of them sees your tears...No words necessary.

...except: Thank you, Tom. ♥

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