The Last hoorah

Yesterday was my father’s 84th birthday. Today is my parents 62nd wedding anniversary.

This is the last celebration of both.

They met senior year at Wheaton College outside of Chicago. They were engaged and married within a year. Football, seminary, farm churches, West Point. They lived an extraordinary life.

There is something very powerful in “lasts.” The last kiss, the last good-bye, the last hug before catching a plane, the last episode of your favorite series, the last burst of light as the sun sets. We tolerate the lasts because we have hope for more firsts. We accept the last Christmas knowing there will be another one. We pack up from the last vacation with hopeful anticipation another is to come.

But what if that’s it? What if that really is all there is?

In my early 40’s, moderately successful in life and work, I uprooted myself and my 8 year old daughter and headed to the Florida keys to be with my parents as my father, sidelined and bedridden with Parkinson’s Disease, runs his last lap on earth. There are days when I think, “this is it. This is his last breath.” Then he rallies another breath, another night, another day. This is not a sprint for him. It is a long, slow marathon. In dark places of my mind, I wonder why he’s holding on. Is there someone he needs to see? To talk to? Am I supposed to learn something? Humbleness? Servitude? Selflessness?

Maybe this is my father’s legacy – running the race to the end. “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

When you believe in something greater than yourself, when you struggle and persevere, the end result is hope.

“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” Romans 5:4

I’ve felt hopelessness once in my life and I never want to feel that again. We all need to be seen and heard and we all need – every single one of us – something to hope for.

Last night my brother, mother, nephew and daughter sang “happy birthday” to my father and shared a piece of carrot cake – all fully aware that this would be the last time we would sing it to him. How sobering.

It took the joy out of the occasion, the cake less sweet, the candle, dimmer.

Today two dozen long stemmed red roses adorn the table – a traditional anniversary present from my father to my mother for 62 years of marriage. I arranged the order and delivery on my father’s behalf, something we had discussed a month ago while he was still able to speak. The card is inscribed with a bible verse that my father engraved inside his wedding ring six decades ago.

I hate goodbyes. I’m well versed in them. Growing up at West Point, I’ve said goodbye to cadets that I’ve come to love as family upon graduation, year after year after year, knowing it would most likely be for the last time. This is different. This is final.

This is the last Hoorah.

As my father prepares to cross the finish line, there are three things my father taught me about living a good life. He has lived them.

  1. Give grace. “Grace is not a blue eyed blonde… ” dad once said in a sermon. Grace is love and forgiveness that comes from God. It is the greatest gift He gives to us and the greatest gift we can give to each other. Grace heals all.

2. Love abundantly. Love unceasingly. Love without ceasing.

3. Have hope. Never lose sight of it. My father ended every church service with Romans 15:13 which says: “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”

For my father, for my parents, for our family nucleus as we know it, this is the last Hoorah.

For you, for me, for our relationship, this is the beginning. Every day is a new day – fresh – with no mistakes in it.

Wherever you are in your race, no matter what you’re facing, the sun will rise in the morning. No matter what is happening in the world, in your life, in your faith, God is good, all the time.

I can promise you that.

Find your Joy. Practice Thanksgiving. Have and give Hope. Celebrate every day.

And Run to Win.


27 thoughts on “The Last hoorah

  1. Beautiful, Kathy….God will greet your dad when he arrives in heaven….you are a blessing to him and your mother…

  2. So beautiful Kathy. Thank you for sharing yourself, your family, your love for life!

  3. God Bless your father, Chaplain Camp. He is a hero in my book of life. May you and your family know his love always. Tears for all.
    Bonnie & Dennis Donato ❤️

  4. Thank you for your very touching and thoughtful remarks about your dad and his words of wisdom. He would be proud of you. He raised a wise daughter. As will you. Prayers for your dad and your family…

  5. Kathy, thank you for sharing your family story, challenge and hope. I love your Dad and your family – as almost every cadet for many years also does. A Humble, inspiring God-led man who passed on Grace and love to us when we needed it. #NTTG ‘88!

  6. Your father and mother hold a special place in my heart. God bless you and keep you now and forever, Chapain Camp!

  7. Beautiful remembrance Cathy. Dick would be very pleased. In over fifty years in the chaplaincy and civilian pastorate Dick Camp was the finest pastor I had the pleasure of serving with. He will be welcomed at heaven’s gate by a host of people. Thank you, Dick for being a great friend. Mamie sends her love too. We never were at the Camps when there was not a few cadets or their moms and dads there. Those were wonderful years.

  8. Dearest Kathy, A beautiful tribute to your wonderful father. He and your mother were a inspired blessing during our life at West Point. Much love and God’s blessings on them and you. Judi Giordano

  9. You have your father’s gift, Kathy. What a beautiful tribute. Our lives were forever affected and blessed by your family. What an inspiration. He ran a great race…literally and spiritually. Parkinson’s is such a terrible disease but he will soon be cured.

  10. Kathy- thank you for sharing you heart and these final family milestones. Countless West Pointers and many others have been positively touched by not only your father, Chaplain Camp, but by your entire family. As a cadet I only knew you as the Camp’s little girl, but you have become such an extraordinary young woman, clearly blessed with the same remarkable traits as your parents. Thanks so much for reminding us of the key lessons and scriptures your father taught you and the rest of us. Only God knows the full extent and impact of the lives he touched, but I’m convinced there is an amazing reward waiting for him in the heavens… when the Lord finally calls him home, I know Jesus will embrace Dick Camp and immediately tell him, “Well done good and faithful servant!”… “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭116:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ … Like Paul in II Timothy 4:7, Dick Camp Can genuinely say… “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” … to the entire Camp family, “May the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  11. Kathy, Your dad was my father away from home when I was a cadet. He has probably had the greatest shaping influence on my life as a follower or Christ. His legacy lives on in me and so many other people like me. What an inspiration. I am glad you are there with him and your mom. Thank you.

  12. Kathy, I am so honored to know your dad and all he did at West Point and beyond. As you know, my father suffers from Parkinson’s also. It is a terribly unforgiving disease. God’s peace and comfort for Chaplain Camp, you and your family. ❤️🙏🏻

  13. Kathy, I never met your dad, but through you and your blog, I feel like I have come to know him a bit and he sounds like a pretty great human. I wish you and your family peace as you transition through your “last hurrah”. -Sarah Derryberry

  14. Hi Kathy, My heart is with you all during this time of transition. But I have to tell you this. A few weeks ago I was waiting for my car to be repaired and an older woman sat down near me. I was reading (Outlander) and she knew the book and we started talking. I mentioned that we had just retired from West Point (we are still in the HV). She asked how long we had been there (27 years) and did I know Dick Camp. Oh my the memories came flooding back. She asked after your parents. Apparently she went to high school with your father and may have gone to Wheaton also because she remembered your mother. I only have her first name, unfortunately. It was Sandy. I gave her my contact info but haven’t heard from her. Finding your blog today has been a blessing for me. I remember you as a teenager. Please give your mom a hug for me and tell your dad we will all see each other again one day.

  15. Kathy, I knew you as a little girl… time flies. Your Mom and Dad were very special friends of my parents, Chuck and Martha Schilling, both during and after West Point. They were instrumental in encouraging my folks in their walk with our Lord which led to my finding Christ. I think their reunion in Heaven will be unbelievable!!! I last saw your folks at Mom’s funeral. She soldiered through Parkinson’s so I know some of what you’re feeling. It is a hard race to run but remember, the last Hurrah here is only the beginning in Eternity where there will never be any more last goodbyes or last anything. Praying for peace and comfort for each of you now and looking forward to our meeting again in Heaven…..and what a day that will be !!!

  16. Chaplain Camp positively influenced so many people throughout his years at West Point. I have no doubt that he will hear, “job well done”. And when Chaplain Camp reaches his eternal home, I can picture John Feagin with a large smile warmly welcoming him.

  17. I had the privilege of meeting your dad a few times. Your brother Brad was my teammate at Wheaton (football and track). I drove him home from Wheaton on my way to Boston one time around Thanksgiving, when your dad was still serving as Chaplain at West Point. He gave me a tour of the that whole magnificent campus – and tried to recruit me for the chaplaincy corps. A few years later, I met your dad again when I served as an associate at South Shore Baptist. Brad had told me about his battle with Parkinsons. Your dad was a legend at Wheaton. Men from the 50’s regularly talked about your dad and the glory years Wheaton football saw back then. So glad to read this tribute as your dad runs these final laps in the great relay of faith.

  18. So many wonderful memories with Chaplain Dick Camp and Virjean. What an inspiration to all of us grads as well to our young O’Neill children. Can we all aspire to be as noble as Dick Camp? God Bless all the Camps

  19. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad!
    He was a wonderful man who had such a positive influence on so many lives.
    He holds a special place in our hearts.
    Thinking of you and your family.

  20. Beautifully expressed, Kathy…our Thomson family has the most wonderful 1995 memories of sharing graduation with all of you!!! Remember your song…Oh those Thomson’s!
    Blessings and love to you all, Joan & Family

  21. Thank you Kathy for the moving tribute to the great man of God who is your father. Sandra and I are deeply grateful for all the memories of times we have shared with your Dad, Mom and family since our days in Hingham in the 1970s, and for Dick’s example and long ministry in our lives. He has truly run the race to win, and we are thankful that he will soon reach the finish line – and the starting line of eternity.
    “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”.
    We continue in prayer for all your family.
    With love,

    Al & Sandra

  22. My husband and I had the privilege of knowing and loving your parents during our time living at West Point. What an inspiring experience. I can hear both of them laughing with such gusto. It was a joy to see your father, the chaplain, riding his motorcycle. Such an unique man will always be remembered. Thank you Kathy for sharing your beautiful tribute to your father. Please give your mother our best.

  23. Kathy, your heart-felt words were BEAUTIFUL to the “Nth” degree! Like many, as a Cadet I worked with Chaplain Camp who faithfully, lovingly, and with dedication helped me as well as others in their respective churches worship our Lord. His service to Christ as Chaplain was reflected in how your father lived life, always running to win! May God bless your dear mother, Virjean, all the family, and you, Kathy, with His peace, strength, and hope always as you continue to live the love Chaplain Richard Camp let shine in his life!

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