Posts Tagged ‘Lutherlyn’

Today, Natalie George will be laid to rest, and being unable to attend the funeral, I thought that writing a bit more about her might help me with closure.

During the summer of 2009, I was working at Camp Lutherlyn as a counselor.  One week, I got the opportunity to work with a program called Go-For-It, an adventure camp that goes off site for most of the week to go camping, canoeing, rock climbing etc.  Natalie was the nurse for that week, and as I got ready to head out with the group to our camping area several hours away from camp, I joked with her that I’d try not to get hurt or sick without her…

I kept that end of the promise, I made it through the whole week without needing the care of a nurse.  But on Friday of the week, we came back to camp and were going to do a bike ride affectionately known as the Tour de Creme.  The Tour is a bike ride to an ice cream shop a few miles from camp.  It’s fun because kids get an opportunity to get away and really enjoy a nice ride, and the ice cream is also a pretty cool incentive.  Unfortunately, because of a few steep hills, and because of over-confident riders, it had gotten a bit of a reputation as causing injuries.

As we were heading back to camp, I was pedaling really hard to get a running start at a hill when my chain jumped and locked up my pedals.  Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and so while my pedal stopped moving, my feet and legs did not, jamming my leg down towards the ground with intense force, straight into the bike’s sprocket.  Imagine metal teeth going into the nice meaty part of your calf.  That’s about all I need to say about the injury.

I knew instantly it was going to be bad as I pulled out the first aid kit, so we called the head counselors to tell them I’d need picked up and to have the nurses ready.  When I got back to camp, Natalie and her husband Tim were waiting, and were able to clean the cut better than I had been able to and confirmed my belief that he laceration was extremely deep and large and that I would need stitches.

The cut was gruesome.  And while I was laughing hysterically at my own stupidity, I was probably fairly close to going into shock from blood loss.  Natalie kept me talking while her husband cleaned and dressed the wound, keeping me distracted from looking at the clearly visible fatty and muscle tissue in my leg.  And while normally for an ER run, it would just the be the patient (me) and the head counselor, Natalie insisted on coming along.

While at the hospital, she kept me comfortable in a way that only a mother can, and she ensured that the staff maintained and followed her high standards of care.

On the way back to camp, she found out that my parents were out of the country and so the next morning when the camp session was over and we had the weekend off, she welcomed me into her home so that rather than being alone at camp for a day and a half, unable to move around much or drive, I could have the help and attention that I needed.  That night I got a home-cooked meal and the care of not only a truly passionate nurse, but a wonderful mother.

It is for this reason that I am eternally grateful for Natalie George.  The way she opened her heart, and her home to me in my time of need.

Natalie, you are a friend who will not be forgotten, not by me, or by anyone you’ve touched.  Rest in peace.


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It’s been a weird year of firsts for me.

Last spring, I was best man at my brother’s wedding.  And while it was a small ceremony, consisting of only the closest friends and family, it was the first time I had truly felt an investment in a wedding ceremony.

A few months later, my good friends and coworkers at Camp Luthelyn, Ryan and Cindy Kobert got married, marking two of the first of my friends to get married, but also the first wedding of my friends that I got to attend.

But along with great joy, comes great sorrow.

Tomorrow, a close friend will be laid to rest, and while I’ve seen the passing of many friends and family members, this seems different.  This is the first time that I’ve had to deal with the unexpected loss of a close friend; something that I would not wish on my worst enemies, and something that at 21 I am still too young to have to go through.

“Natalie A. George, 50, of Indiana, PA died Friday, Februrary 18, 2011, at the Indiana Regional Medical Center.”

That’s what the obituary in the local newspaper says.  The fact that it is one of the most popular “stories” on the Indiana Gazette website right now should tell you how much she meant to people, but beyond that simple fact, it doesn’t tell much more than details of the arrangements.  It doesn’t tell how much she meant to me, and how much she meant to everyone she met.

Natalie was the mother of Christa, TJ and Bekah.  All of whom were campers at Lutherlyn, several times during the same week session as me.  Christa and Bekah went on to become staff members with whom I worked during my time at camp and TJ often came up to visit and volunteer.

But Natalie was more than just a mother to a family of kids going to camp.  She was one of Lutherlyn’s best volunteers.  Natalie, a nurse, often accompanied by her husband Tim, who is a paramedic, would give of themselves several weeks out of the summer to come serve as the volunteer nurse/medical staff at Lutherlyn.

Throughout my years as a camper, I was often on medication for my heart, and quite regularly managed to get myself sick or banged up, and so I spent a lot of time at the health hut with the nurses over the years…

And while I can hardly remember more than a few of my counselors or the kids in my cabins, I remember the nurses and the compassion they showed, and I specifically remember Natalie, remember the summers she was and was not my nurse.  I remember the summer I went to model rocketry camp, and for one reason or another ended up in the health hut.  I can’t remember what it was that had me needing medical attention, for all I know, I could’ve just been homesick, but I DO remember sitting there as Natalie told me about her son TJ and how much he had loved rocketry camp, and I remember how the world seemed a little bit brighter after talking to her.

Natalie was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a volunteer and a friend.  She represented the standard of caregiving that any nurse should strive for.  And the one thing that she is and will continue to be, is missed.

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For some kids, going to summer camp is hard.

Whether it’s their first time away from home, or their tenth, there’s only so much your college-aged camp counselor can do in the absence of mom and dad.  College students are in fact the perfect age to serve as camp counselors; just far enough in age from their charges to be respected, but close enough to make them seem totally awesome and someone to look up to.  Perfect role models, although a kid would never say that. But even the best counselors lack certain motherly/fatherly traits that some kids NEED.  There was a time when even I needed it.

Lutherlyn, the camp where I was on staff for five years, and a camper for probably twice that tackles this problem through what they call Camp Grandparents.  These are volunteers who, as the title suggests are around the age of a normal grandparent, and come to spend the week at camp, engaging with the kids, having fun, reading bedtime stories, filling that niche that counselors just can’t.

Lutherlyn has many great volunteers who serve as grandparents, but the best are a couple named Tom & Betty Christy.  Tom & Betty have been around as long as I have, longer even.  I still remember my first summer staying overnight at camp, when I got to stay for a half-week, Tom & Betty were there.  I remember Grandma Betty reading me and my cabin mates a bedtime story, and Grandpa Tom recognizing me as Vern Adams’ grandson, and asking how my grandpa was doing, and making small talk about my older brother.  And so it was a privilege and an honor when I joined the summer staff in 2006, to be working beside two great volunteers who were still going strong.  For the past five summers during which I’ve been on staff, I’ve cherished the opportunity to know that Tom & Betty, the people who made ME comfortable at camp before I was the “uber-cool counselor dude” were still there, giving kids the same loving and nurturing that I got…

I got a facebook message from Deb, the Assistant Director at Lutherlyn the other day.  It was a mass-message sent out to the previous summer’s staff.  Many of whom, my age, have been campers as long as I have, have seen the Christy’s in action from BOTH sides of the table…

Grandma Betty has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Deb’s message said that “She has an incredibly positive attitude and great trust in God to be with her through this but it is still scary.”

Of course it’s scary.  Pancreatic cancer is often looked at as one of rarest, yet most deadly forms of cancer.

It’s scary to think of someone who was such a source of strength for me, who has been a source of strength for so many homesick kids, is vulnerable.  Someone so timeless, that countless campers can remember having been impacted by, as mortal.

I wish there were a happy ending to this story, that two days after diagnosis we could say “oh, it was just a false alarm” but there isn’t, and we can’t.

The best we can do is hope and pray for her to overcome this.  For God to give her the strength that she gave to so many youth.

Pray for Betty Christy.  Pray for Tom Christy.  Pray for their family.  Pray for everyone they’ve ever touched and helped.


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