Yesterday, at midnight, my father The Rev. Dr. Richard P. Camp, Jr., took his last breath on earth.
A few years ago I asked him the meaning of life. He said, “to know and serve God.” I responded, “say it in a different way.”
“life is about relationships – our relationship with God and with each other.”
My father was a prolific relationship builder. One way he kept in touch was through his newsletters. In the last few years, I wrote them with him, enduring the hours and sometimes days of edits and reedits. On May 22, 2018, we drafted his final letter.
“When our work is done, our course on earth is run, may it be said, “Well done” be thou at peace.”
My goal in life has been to build strong Christians. At West Point I used the term “Spiritual Muscle.” Every cadet is an athlete and can understand the need to be physically fit. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” This has been the roadmap by which I’ve lived my life.
As the fierce waves of Parkinson’s and age wash against and over me, I’m reflective on my life and legacy. I don’t know what’s ahead – whether God gives me another day or another year. I’m tired, both physically and emotionally. I’ve gone from being focused on my health to focusing on Heaven.
If I could do it all over again…
I would exercise harder. I’ve made athletics a lifelong pursuit but there is always more in the tank. We can always do one more rep, one more yard, one more set. “You’ve been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All 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)
I would take more time for family. Go to the games, help with the homework. Have the big conversations as well as the little ones. Sit down for family meals. Don’t let your work consume you – let your family know they are the priority. Pursue your spouse and your children every day. It’s the best investment you can make.
I would say “thank you” more often. Thank your family, your friends, your peers for their presence in your life. Thank God for your blessings and your hardships – both are necessary for character development. “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope.” (Romans 5:4)
I would work harder on my relationship with God. What does that look like? Take scripture seriously. Memorize it. Scripture brings us closer to God. It instructs us on how to live our best lives. Pray. The bible says to “pray without ceasing.” To me, that means you have a daily dialog with God. In the car, in the shower, at the dinner table, with your kids, with your spouse, on your knees or on a run. We were made for relationships. The most important is with the Creator and Sustainer of life. Memorize scripture, know what God wants and expects from you and for you. Place your fears and desires at His feet and feel His peace. Exercise your muscles of faith. Keep yourself spiritually fit.
“Pass on what you heard from me…When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.” (2 Timothy 2) Continue to do your best for God.
“I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish…” (2 Timothy 4:7) I’ve invested in you, as you have in me. Thank you. Thank you for showing up again and again for our relationship. Remember me in your prayers, as I will remember you. I won’t say good-bye because I plan to see you all again in Heaven. Make sure you right your heart with God now. Don’t wait!
Until we meet again, may the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and Peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with Hope by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
A Celebration of Life and Legacy service will be held at West Point in early Spring 2021. For more information please check back in the coming months at www.chaplaincamp.org.
The Rev. Dick Camp was born in Fair Lawn, NJ in 1936 to a Baptist minister. The eldest of 5, Dick excelled at sports and leadership. Captain of his high school football and track teams, he was widely recruited including Vince Lombardi at West Point. He followed his father to Wheaton College in Illinois. He attended Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, pastored several churches throughout New England, was the Dean of Students at the Seminary, leading to a 20+ year career as Chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Chaplain Camp retired in 1996 and became the Executive Director of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. He retired in Sarasota, Florida. His legacy includes his wife of 62 years Virjean, his son Brad, his daughter Kristen, his daughter Katherine, 9 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, friends, family, and thousands of cadets who graced his home and life with joy and adventure. He has finished his race.
He has passed the baton. It is our turn to Run to Win.
Donations can be made to Chaplain Camp Christian Charities in support of the West Point Athletic Ministry.
Donations can be made to the Chaplain Camp Memorial Fund at WPAOG online at westpoinaog.org/giveonline, select “Annual Gifts” then select “Long Gray Line Fund”. Please indicate the gift is “in memory of Chaplain Camp.”