Buying presents for Graham’s counselors was peculiar in a way because, like all the volunteers at Camp, they expected nothing in return for their efforts. They unpretentiously embodied Emerson’s notion that “the only true gift is a portion of
thyself.” The one reward they hoped for was to see their campers smiling and laugh- ing. Fully understanding that, my hope was that wearing the whimsical bracelets would remind Graham’s counselors that what they gave him will never be lost and that a portion of Graham remains in each of them.
Walking up to Beadniks to collect the finished bracelets a few days later, I found myself smiling at a vivid memory from exactly a year earlier, Graham’s last summer at Camp. It was a vignette that perfectly epitomized the experiences he shared with his counselors over the years. The incident occurred on our last day on the island, during a sudden torrential downpour, the kind that causes flash flooding.
I was driving up Main Street in Vineyard Haven, past the ice cream shops and ancient movie theater, windshield wipers oscillating furiously, when I happened upon Jackie and Kaitlin, Graham’s counselors at the time, frantically wheeling him in the direction of Camp. They had been caught in the sudden cloudburst. Jackie and Kaitlin had removed their jackets and were holding them like a tent over Gra- ham while they were pelted by enormous drops of rain falling almost as violently as hail. I pulled alongside the threesome and, through a wall of water, asked if they wanted to get in the Jeep with me and ride back to Camp.
“No thanks, Dr. Steve, we’re just fine!” shouted Kaitlin.
As they ran up Main Street in the direction of Camp, the two counselors pushing frantically on either side of Graham’s wheelchair, drenched as thoroughly as if they had jumped in the harbor, Jackie, Kaitlin and Graham were—naturally—howling with laughter.
Doctor Steven Gardner is an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and past Medical Director of the Massachusetts Special Olympics. He is a prominent photographer whose images focus on the resilience of people facing adversity and the compassion of caregivers. His work has been exhibited in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, where he is a volunteer physician at Camp Jabberwocky, the location and inspiration for many of the stories in this book.
Doctor Gardner is a member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Global Disaster Response Team and served in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake with Project Hope and the American Refugee Committee. In 2013 he served as Chief Medical Officer of Project Hope’s Team Bravo in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
A past winner of the Harvard Medical School Humanism in Medicine Award, Gardner has been described by Doctor Carl Cooley of Dartmouth Medical School as “a doctor and an artist who sees with his heart.”