A few months after that firefly night, my family is playing a round of cards. We’re trash-talking and laughing, when my phone interrupts our fun. My mother is on the other end, frantically explaining that Cameron was hiking in Oregon and that we all need to pray. She implores us to help call the Oregon Park Service. Three years later, the Crater Lake park ranger’s number is still EXPO’d on the whiteboard in my kitchen.
Putting together clues and tracks, the best guess we can come up with is that Cameron, my cousin and childhood friend, fell from a snow-covered cornice into the waters of Crater Lake—a two-thousand-foot-deep body of water famous for its startling beauty.
The night of Cam’s funeral, his rugby buddies and our family release paper lanterns into the night. We stand there for a very long time, watching the lanterns float across the starry Nashville sky. Some lanterns unite and form the letter C, as if they are honoring Cameron with us. Even now, in the daylight, my aunt, Cameron’s mom, notices clouds in the shape of the letter C. She can’t help but wonder if it’s her imagination or a supernatural gift of love. “Hugs from heaven,” she calls them.
Like most of us do in grief, I want to make sense of nonsense. I want my questions answered so that I can write a good sermon on the topic. But there are no remains of Cameron and also oh-so-many remains: the gorgeous photo of Crater Lake he texted before his fall, all of our lingering questions, all of our memories and stories.
Where is the hope in a tragic, sudden death like his? Where is God’s presence in freak accidents? How do you find God’s love in a thing that feels so loveless?
God, can your love show up, even here?
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