Almost every Easter long weekend during my 20s was spent with Quaker friends at Werona in Kangaroo Valley. The things I loved about these camps were the fun, the depth and the sense of community that we created. I remember epic rounds of 500, laughing so hard over a ridiculous game of dares or mafia, swimming in the bitterly cold river, massage chains, and sleep-overs in the cave. Over the cooking, washing up or later on by the fire we discussed the meaning of life, the pursuit of meaningful vocations, what we thought Jesus was really trying to say and the struggle to live with integrity. We shared honestly about our fears, hopes and dreams for the future. These deep discussions sustained and enriched me. And through the laughter, the fun and the deep sharing, we built a community. I felt genuinely accepted for who I was and knew I was a valued member of the group even if I hadn't showered for days, was wearing my daggiest clothes and was covered in ticks.
Remembering at Werona, 2012
This Easter weekend, we returned to Kangaroo Valley to farewell our friend Juchie. Since his death in January, I have reconnected with so many beautiful people who knew him, seen photos and heard stories, and have been reminded of the love that still connects us. That same sense of community returned, and many of us felt sheepish that we had let one another drift from our immediate circles, and particularly sad that we had let our beautiful friend slip through the cracks. Now I am wondering how we can honour his memory with integrity, without pretending he was more than he really was by placing him on a pedestal or diminishing him by only remembering the way that he died and not the way that he lived. And how can we re-create that sense of community, of fun, of depth as we move on from youth and into the next stage of life?