Tuesday night at the campfire, Bill sat next to me and wanted to continue talking about what we had touched upon earlier in the day about his recent life changes, our similar difficulties at work, and how he was learning how to pick up after himself (something he mentioned that he should of learned in kindergarten). The conversation was thoughtful and meaningful and with a touch of humor. We sat long past the time that everyone else had left the campfire, much like you do with your best friend or sibling for those special camp talks. It was the longest conversation I had ever had with Bill. He left for home the next morning.
On Wednesday night the younger of the Lushington clan came up with the idea that they wanted to make s’mores in the river, so they fashioned a raft, soaked it thoroughly and built a campfire on it. A table was set in the river festooned with s’more ingredients, and while singing “Burn Fire Burn”, the young ‘uns roasted marshmallows while sitting in the river. The floating campfire was truly beautiful and the evening was magical. As the floating campfire drifted off in the current, Carolyn and I spoke of it as a pyre and waved good bye to our imaginary relative as he disappeared into Valhalla. Carolyn shot the imaginary flaming arrow at the pyre as if to light it while I waved goodbye and it was a playful moment between us. It wasn’t until the following morning that we learned that Bill had died the previous day some hours before the floating campfire was lit.
Thursday night, at our usual gathering around the fire, we held a memorial campfire for Bill and each told a story or memory of Bill at camp including his increasing openness with us over the past couple of years and, of course, his inspired rendition of “A Sourdough Story” poem.
We have spent 60 summers or so with Bill at camp, and of the ten cousins who played together so many summers together, he is the first to leave us. It is hard to believe he is gone so soon. Cherish each other and each day.