In lieu of a Tuesdays with Topher post this week, I’m thrilled to bring you some wonderful thoughts by Mo-T Wilks.  In case you don’t know her story, Mo-T has been around Camp Gray in varying capacities since 2005.  She recently joined the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton, IL, but before she left, she sat down and wrote out this farewell.  If you don’t know much else about Mo-T’s story, you can read about it here or here.  Without further ado, Mo-T! 

By: Mo-T Wilks

When I was graduating college, my parents bought me a pretty nice guitar as a graduation (high school and college, valentine’s day, Christmas, birthday, arbor day, labor day, boxing day [Canadian, of course], grandparents day, national love your daughter day, and George Washington’s birthday) gift. Thanks for bearing with me in that last sentence; I thought I’d start out with a bang – using the brackets inside the parentheses technique used by the one and only, Topher Aderhold. But I digress…let’s get back to that guitar. After graduating college, my guitar and I flew out to camp for my third summer. I was planning on staying on for the school year, and I did not know what I would do after that. The year? 2007.

In preparation for flying with an expensive gift, I bought a fancy cushioned case meant for encasing a hard guitar case for travel. Such a gift was clearly worth taking care of. The case worked out well and my guitar and I arrived at camp in 2 pieces (me being one piece and my guitar being the other). Upon arriving at camp, that guitar case was stored under my bed, only to be used again when I was leaving camp for good. I wasn’t sure exactly when that would be, but I probably would have guessed it would be sometime in the next 15 months.

This morning, I pulled that dusty guitar case out from underneath my bed. It is September, 2012 and it hadn’t been used since May 2007. I had no idea I would stay here so long. The case was more than dusty, it also had shrunk. Much as our childhood toys suddenly seem tiny compared to our memory when we are adults, I didn’t even really remember what this guitar case looked like. I experienced a mildly nostalgic moment as I packed up my guitar and reflected on how long I had been at camp.

Sure, 5 years is not a super long time to be somewhere. But Camp Gray is the only place I have lived and worked in my adult life. (I consider college to be pre-adult life, despite what I may have told you when I was in college). And sure, at a certain point I realized that I probably would stay at camp forever, unless God told me to do otherwise. But I can’t believe I have been so lucky to stay here so long, and I can’t believe that I am now leaving.

These days, people often say to me things such as, “boy, you must be excited!” This is problematic, mostly because I am not a boy. Also, it’s hard to explain how I feel right now, but excited probably isn’t the word I would use. I know without a doubt that I am following God’s will. I know that I will be happy and I will grow closer to the Lord every day. But that is still in the (near) future. For now, I just feel poignant. (I didn’t want to use the word sad, and Microsoft word assured me that poignant was a synonym.) (Side note, I don’t think I’ve ever said that word out loud before, go ahead and try it).

Now that I am so close to leaving, I can’t help but reflect on how much I have learned and grown since I graduated college. I can’t believe that I am saying bye to the people who have helped me to do so, to the friends who have loved and challenged me, and to the campers who have changed my life more than I could have hoped to change theirs.

If you have ever been a camper or staff member here, you know that feeling of driving away from camp, and having to wait a year to return (unless you take advantage of the many retreats and activities that camp offers throughout the school year). Some of you know the feeling of driving away from camp after having been there longer than I. So now we are all on the same page – you know what I mean when I say poignant.

When it comes to saying bye, there seems to be no good way to do it. Some cry, some joke, some like to get in 5 more hugs right at the end, and some people are sneaky and leave a note in the mailbox on the way out. There might be good ways and bad ways to say bye, but the other day a friend remarked, “it doesn’t matter how you do it, all byes are badbyes, not goodbyes.”

To my friend, and to all of you, I would like to formally assert that I disagree. This is Camp Gray we are talking about. We are united by our love for Christ, our belief in God’s care for us, and our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It would defy everything that the campers and staff at Camp Gray talk about if I let you all believe that this was a bad bye. Because those things that truly unite us, more than panda ball and extra hugs ever can, will continue to unite us. We will pray for each other, and some day we will meet again. And, in the meantime, we will be grateful for the gifts God has given us in our time together, and we will pray for each other.

At least, that is what I have learned at Camp Gray. I’ve learned it from the directors and the staff, from the campers, from the campers’ parents, and from students on retreats. I have learned that we can only be truly happy if we are following God’s will, and that is why I am leaving – to follow God’s will. So, goodbye Camp Gray!
Mo-T would love to hear from you!
Theresa Wilks
St. Francis Convent
1 Franciscan Way
PO Box 9020
Alton, IL 62002-9020