When the news reached me on Saturday, May 8, 2004, I couldn't believe it. A year has passed and I still can't. How could anyone?

My first summer at Camp Pontiac, in 1997, I was a Group Leader for the sophomore boys. Craig Grumet was one of my campers. He was a kid anyone could recognize instantly; the haircut was a giveaway. Not to mention his soccer skills. It was tough being a Group Leader in my first year at a new camp, but Craig was a treasure; friendly, thoughtful, unassuming, never one bit of trouble.

As all boys do, Craig grew up fast. Not many kids from that 1997 sophomore group made it all the way to CIT's, and only a few were set to come back as junior counselors in 2004. But summer after summer, Craig was there.

During the summer of 2002, right at the beginning of camp, Craig came to me with an idea. He asked me to bring my guitar down to the new lower porch one night and play some music for the older boys. Skeptically I asked him, "You guys actually
want me to do this?" He replied with an emphatic and enthusiastic yes, and the next thing I knew he was telling everyone to come out onto the porch at 11:00. He helped me carry my instruments and sheet music, held the light, brought water, sat nearby and listened.

I don't remember how many of those late-night outdoor concerts I played that summer, but Craig was always there. They were a highlight of the summer for many, myself included. It was his initiative, his effort and his help that made them possible.

The last time I spoke to him was in December of 2003, when he asked me for help on an English essay. But I think I'll always remember more clearly the end of camp that year, when for a long moment after Color War Sing I remarked to him about how long we'd known each other, how much he'd grown in that time, and what a fine young man he'd become. I then joked that it might finally be time for a haircut. He smiled.

I think that maybe, in remembering that moment, in some sense I feel that I was able to say a proper goodbye to him. And I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful to have even crossed paths with this young man, who meant so much to so many.

My deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to Craig's family and friends. I hope it provides some small measure of comfort to know that he meant something to one more person.

On June 9, 2004, The Wheatley school hosted a somber and moving memorial. Craig's parents and Wheatley principal Mr. Richard Simon invited me to perform, and I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to play than "Just Yesterday," which I wrote at Camp Pontiac in 1999. In August I made a recording for the upcoming memorial CD.
Right-click here and select "Save Target As…" to download the .mp3 file.


I've re-opened the Guestbook to anyone who wishes to share their thoughts. Please use the links above to sign and view the new Guestbook, as well as to view the old ones.

I've found myself thinking of Craig often this past year, and I wonder if I've come any closer to grasping or making sense of this. Looking back on his untimely passing, reading through the Guestbook messages, and listening to the songs on the memorial CD, including my own rendition of "Just Yesterday," still fills me with that profound sense of loss that I just couldn't reconcile during those awful days in May; those dreadful hours when I couldn't be certain if it was true, the frantic and fruitless searches of the internet and local papers, the phone calls and emails to and from Pontiac friends, the eerie sight of Craig's screen name online. Then the reality sank in, the frustration at not being able to get out of school to go to the funeral, that intense, overwhelming desire to just...do...
something


When I finally saw Ginny and Marc at the June 9 Memorial at Wheatley, they were both so kind in thanking me for setting up this web page. Others have expressed their gratitude as well, and I feel deeply humbled. To all of you I can only say what I said to Craig's family then, and which I still feel now: I wish I could have done more.


I've been an educator my whole adult life, known hundreds upon hundreds of young people, most of whom have long since faded behind me. But I'll never forget this one, never.

Craig only got to live a short time. Maybe it's cruel and unfair that he only got to be a kid, never got to finish growing up and see what the world had in store for him, but then maybe it's not so bad. For here was a kid who loved life, who made much of his brief time. Here was a kid whose life
mattered.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose


Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honors out

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man


                               - A. E. Housman

Requiescat in pace.

.

For more about Craig, including a photo montage and more tributes, please visit www.craiggrumet.com


Thank you all for visiting, and for contributing to the Guestbooks here.

             

- Jay Braiman   english@mrbraiman.com