Skip to Content

What we have done together has always been magic. Keep on.

by Chelsea Leader Gold
 ∙ Nov 6 ∙ 5 Min Read

On November 7, 2019 (a year ago this week), our Grandy became an angel…or a flamingo,* rather…and changed our lives forever not only in her living but in her dying, too.

We’ve shared about our experience of her passing a lot over the last year (because it really moved us, and naturally impacted how we’ve shown up for you), but perhaps we didn’t link it as blatantly as we could have to the Earth-shaking power of community…of this community in particular.

*Grandy assured us her spirit would be coming back to us in the form of a flamingo, and our girl’s not messin’ around; the signs are everywhere!

It was the morning of November 5, 2019 (2 days before Grandy passed) when we — Tammi (bossmom), Courtney (sister) and I — arrived in South Florida, fresh off a cross-country redeye flight, following the Campowerment retreat in California. We rejoined the Leader fam in Grandy and Mr. Grandy (Papa)’s house.

By then it had been 5 months of Grandy being “One Tough Bitch,” in and out of the hospital, fighting like hell for her spirit. We were now flying back to Florida because she was done fighting. Grandy asked to be moved to home hospice, to be with our family, in peace, back at her place. So that’s where we were, in some kind of numb shock when the Social Worker with the home hospice agency walked in, through the garage after we missed the knock on the front door.

s0, here’s the story we want you to see yourself in, the moral of which is: Your lessons will knock and knock and knock to get you to answer. and if you don’t, they’ll let themselves in through the garage.

The hospice worker’s name was Jackie. She told us that when she entered. We welcomed her — probably not as warmly as we usually would a house guest, but still, we were friendly, given the circumstances. She scanned my mom with a peculiar familiarity and said quickly, “I know you!”

My mom, who is quite great with faces, apologized. “I am a bit out of it. Please remind me how we know each other?” Or something to that effect.

She said, “I went to one of your Campowerment retreats 5 or 6 years ago, in North Florida. I had breast cancer, and read about what you were doing, and knew I needed it. I reached out because I couldn’t afford to be there at the time. I shared my story with Grandy, who quietly offered to cover my cost so I could be there. We bonded in such a special way. What a small world! How is your mom??”

“Um. She’s been better. She’s in there,” my mom said as she gestured towards the hospital bed in the living room.

Jackie looked shocked. She had been reading her paperwork as though her patient’s name was Joanne (Jo-Anne), not realizing it was “Joan,” and that this Joan was Grandy!

We had a cry together, and we brought her in to see Grandy. We recapped the story, and though Grandy was no longer speaking at the time (with the exception of her last two words, ‘not yet,’ when she heard us say she was ready to go, hours later. Ha!), Grandy smiled warmly and blinked a bunch for Jackie. She blinked a bunch for us, too, and there it was: a hand-off of sorts, like she was passing us the wand we were now ready to hold, that we had been using with her for years.

It’s like Grandy sent the lesson directly to us; like she was saying…

“What we have done together has always been magic. Keep on.”

We tell you this story today not because we expect that you feel the powerful wave of validation of legacy that we felt on that day (though, if you feel that, it’s a bonus!), but instead to tell you what that experience helped us know for sure:

Whatever you are doing that has your heart: it matters. And if you need a reminder, be open to the one that’s knocking at your door.

Like most things, the magic is under our noses. In front of our faces. Inside of us when we move ego out of the way.

It’s not what you’re becoming that should most blow you away, but what you already are. What you have been. That’s legacy. And that’s what lives in the hand-off from one life to those who carry that life with them forever.

At Campowerment, 2013

To Grandy: we feel you every day. Not only in the wind, in the music, in the family moments, but in everything. You live in the dashes inked on our wrists. In the phone calls, emails, texts and (your favorite) snail mail among those you helped see the best parts of themselves. In the voicemails saved and Glimmers written and friendships formed — like that between us and Rabbi Litwak, whom you loved…between me and Tamatha (a camper I met at the retreat the week you passed, whose next big adventure  — Grand Exit — you are guiding)…between Mommy and Merle Saferstein, who’s finally a Campowerment expert, leading journaling for our people like she did for you. Between us and this community, which is a beacon of magic for so many, exactly as it is.

We never thought we could live without you, and now, one full year without you on Earth, we know we will never have to.


From the campfire & beyond…

Up Next

Grandy taught us that, “readers are leaders,” so keep on!

Wisdom from Where I Stand, 1 Year After Losing My Mom

Tammi Leader
Nov 5 ∙ 4 Min Read

Campers in the Wild – Rebecca Powers

Christina Billie
Oct 13 ∙ 4 Min Read
All Blog Posts
Way-Fun Fact #20
Our founder Tammi Leader Fuller spent 30+ years as a TV producer before rediscovering her true passion: camp culture as a vehicle for growth.