By Greg Schmidt, hospice chaplain

My wife and I are counting down the hours until we leave for Blue Creek Campsite, located on Lake Oolagah in Northeast Oklahoma. It’s one of two trips we’ve made every year for the past 3 years to the same campsite: #15. And if sleeping in a fifth-wheel camper can be called “camping,” then we’re “campers.” We love it sooooo much and can’t wait to hit the road.

“What do we do?” you might ask. Absolutely nothing! We sit in our lounge chairs for 3-4 days together with a brother-in-law and his wife, and breathe. We enjoy several different kinds of beverages while grilling up a few 1-inch thick hamburgers and brats, several fresh Bluecat (a.k.a. Blue Catfish) that we pull from the lake. And, of course, get our hands all ooey-gooey after roasting marshmallows over the fire and smashing them between a couple of graham crackers that just happen to already have large Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups unwrapped and placed on them.

I’ll say it. Heaven in the Heartland!

Why do we do it? To create memories, and to remember and cherish the ones we’ve already created. Sometimes a few of our kids or grandkids join us for an evening or a day. But most of the time we’re just there, alone, without phones, just to talk and listen to the birds or watch the fish make rings on the water.

I really enjoy being with our Heart & Soul Hospice families when we just sit quietly and reflect on the joy that’s been shared with a mom or dad, uncle or aunt, or great friend. The stories often make you giggle and laugh, or say, “Wow!  That’s amazing!”  Or cry. And sometimes, the tears are because such wonderful things have been shared and our hearts are filled with appreciation for having shared amazing moments. Other times we cry because we hurt.

Either way, we do it. Together. It’s a kind of “hand-in-hand” moment.

I love that Rev. Jerroll Martens, the chaplain at Newton Presbyterian Manor, hosts a Second-Friday-of-the-Month “Memorial Service” to honor those from the Presbyterian Manor family who have died during the previous month. He honors the deceased, and he provides the opportunity for the participants to share their reflections, the memories they created. Memories sometimes created simply by being present and listening to another person’s heartbeat. It’s yet another “hand-in-hand” moment: our hands in Gods’.

In Genesis 3:8, a beautiful word-picture is shared in the midst of what becomes a tragic story. The “beautiful” part of the word-picture says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day …”

I absolutely love the idea of God walking alongside a man and a woman – you and me – in the cool of the garden. I think about that passage every time I’m at Lake Oolagah. I believe God takes my hand and walks beside me in the cool of the day. Why? Just to listen to me, and me to Him. To create a memory. One that I’ll cherish. Forever.

Before this day is over, take the hand of a forever friend, and go for a walk in the cool of your life’s garden, if only figuratively speaking. And listen. Why? To create a forever memory.