Diabetes camp has always been a sacred place for me. Looking back in my high school and college days I always valued the time those in their 20s gave as camp counselors and mentors. I remember reading an article in the local newspaper confirming that those in their 20s and 30s have a special window of influence amongst young people. They are old enough to mentor and incite positive change yet young enough to still be “cool and relevant.” I knew I wanted to be that person who gives back like those gave to me.
Shortly after college and moving to California I joined Camp DJ Sequoia Lake. It was a special place nestled in the mountains and cemented my love for the Sierra Nevada here in California. Camp is a tight family. Many of the staff in the campers return year after year. We all know each other as a community. Camp is the place in the world that shatters the fear, loneliness, and isolation so common with type I diabetes
I didn’t meet Eddy until my third year at camp in 2003. I fondly remember him as “Ranger Eddy” driving the white pickup truck branded California Conservation Corps. Eddy had a way of gently foreshadowing things for me like no one else I knew. We worked together at camp for probably eight years. He was one of the staff that really made camp. His ability to connect with people and his unassuming style made him well-known all across camp.
I came out as a gay a number of years later in 2010. I remember sharing with a few of the local staff wondering if I’d be able to return as a staff member. The only other organization I knew regarding camps was the Boy Scouts of America who at the time had a very homophobic policy around the inclusion of LGBT people. A close friend of mine, and fellow camp staffer, Scott, looked at me quizzically and said, “you know Eddy is gay, don’t you?” I didn’t. In many ways Eddy paved the way for me at camp. And I can’t thank you enough for that, Eddy. Thank you for helping to make my life a camp, a place I love so much, inexplicably easier.
Eddy and I crossed paths a couple of months later and had dinner at the restaurant on the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company campus. I remember talking to him with a rather insidious smile telling him I went out on the date. Being the good Southerner that I am I rambled on and on and on about the date and then closed with, “oh, by the way, his name is John. :-)”
We both burst out loud laughing sharing yet another fundamental connection. That night went on forever. And that was okay. I was with my friend who understood me so many levels.
Eddy’s walk with type I diabetes wasn’t easy by any stretch. But I never knew anyone who walked the walk with as much grace as he did. You give me an example on how to walk forward with this condition. You give us all big shoes to fill when it comes to compassion, understanding sacrifice, and walking through the difficult times life gives you.
Eddy, I’m so glad you were able to cross paths with your partner Aldo. I miss you, immensely. But I take confidence in knowing the next life will be truly rich because you’re in it.
Much love (and tears) from this side of the fence. Thank you for your example, your ear, your love, and your gift to each of us.