Today, May 10th, is a special day. It’s Brad Robinson’s birthday. Brad would be 34 today if my calculations are correct.
It’s shocking to realize that Brad’s been gone longer than he was alive.
I think about him often and smile and weep and still miss him.
I often think, especially on days like today, what Brad would be like now. (For those of you who do not know, Brad was killed in summer 2000 while serving as a Dry Creek Camp staffer. His truck was hit by a drunk driver on La. 28.)
It’s difficult to visualize Brad at 34. He’ll always be that smiling-in-love-with-Jesus-natural-born leader at 16. Wow. Brad’s been gone longer than he was alive. Man, I still miss him.
Recently I spent the day at Brad’s old high school, Hicks High. I realized that Brad’s influence there lives on. It also lives on at Dry Creek. Many of the present staff at Dry Creek Camp were close to Brad, including manager Todd Burnaman.
Brad’s life and death led to the release of my first book, Stories from the Creekbank. Below are two of Brad’s stories from that book.
Scroll down to read his most well-known story, “A Bright Light.”
The first story, “The Swamp” always touches me deep down in my soul.
Wednesday, August 4
It’s Wednesday morning as we all sit or stand in the Swamp—all twenty‑five of us. The Swamp is a classic building at Dry Creek. It is the summer home of our boy staffers. I recall with fondness the summer twenty years ago I spent in it as staff director. To all of us guys who’ve worked at camp, there is a special brotherhood from sharing a summer here
But today it’s not just guys in the Swamp. Our whole staff is gathered here. This loud group, whom you normally can’t shut up, is all silent. As I sit against the wall, I stare at a dime on the floor. I’m the fearless leader of this group, and I don’t have a clue what to say.
It’s the last week of camp, and we’ve all left our responsibilities—trash runs, floor sweeping, washing dishes, and all the other behind-the-scene jobs we do daily—to gather at the Swamp to load up Brad’s stuff.
It’s been five weeks since Brad died. We’ve left his bed and gear as it was on the day he left to go home that fateful weekend. His parents told us to keep it there until the end of the summer. And now that time has come. We’ve all come—summer staffers, counselors, and those of us who work here year-round—to say another good‑bye and close another chapter.
All week long I’ve become emotional just thinking about this moment. To me personally it has such an air of finality to it. The last visible links we have to Brad Robinson will be loaded up in a few minutes to make their final journey home.
I continue to stare at the dime on the floor right by Brad’s bed. I wonder how long it has been there and what story it could tell. We all sit in quietness except for the air conditioner and many sniffles. After what seem like hours, but in reality are only minutes, I finally say, “Guys, you’re going to have to do it.”
Then our staff boys slowly, but resolutely, begin what must be done. They unplug Brad’s stereo and pick up the C.D. collection he loved so much. They open his closet and bring out his clothes. His hats—his faithful Yankees’ cap and camouflage basket hat—come next. One by one, with the love and care I’ve seen soldiers fold the American flag, they fold and box up Brad’s stuff.
As I sit against the wall in the corner, the tears just seem to pour out of me as a torrent break forth in a flash flood. I don’t know where it is all coming from. It’s not coming from just my eyes, but from my soul. All of the pent-up emotions I’ve carried in my heart just burst through. I put my head in my hands and just lose control. The pain of loss, the broken dreams of Brad’s future, the sorrow of closing this chapter and saying good‑bye one more time, and seeing Brad’s friends weeping are just too much for all of us. The room is filled with sobbing as we all grieve together.
When I finally look up through my tears, the boys are folding Brad’s quilt and picking up the extra mattress he depended on for a good night’s sleep. Finally everything is loaded into the big blue storage box.
Just as we all sit there, no one wanting to take the first step to the door, five camp radios blast out. The voice of Doris Hennington loudly calls, “Diaaaannnnne.” It is Doris’s famous panic call. At once all of us in the Swamp burst out in uncontrollable laughter. Just when we needed it, the Lord sent just what we needed. As we all laugh heartily with the tears—all mixed with humor and sorrow—I know we’re going to be all right.
The boys load Brad’s stuff in the back of my truck. Mixed with his gear is potting soil and mulch to plant a tree at Brad’s house when they get there. I walk by the truck and touch for one final time Brad’s storage box. Once again I’m walking by his coffin seeing his face for the last time this side of Heaven. Once again I softly say,
“It’s not good‑bye, Brad, but see you later. . .”
A Bright Light
“Let your light so shine before men that they may see
your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”
Monday, June 28
It’s the time of evening I love best at camp… the sun is going down, the shadows lengthen as another day slips by. In the oaks around the tabernacle, the crickets and tree frogs prepare for their nightly duet.
Campers scurry to the Tabernacle. The excitement of a good day and the anticipation of the evening service can be felt in the air just as real as the cool breeze blowing across the grounds. Everyone is full after a fine meal of chicken strips. Teenagers dressed in their new jeans laugh around the tree benches‑ the prime location for courting and friendship at Dry Creek Camp.
I sat in the pavilion just resting. As darkness approaches I notice several outside lights aren’t turned on. Irritation comes over me as I think, “Now who forgot to turn on the lights.” But my irritation is quickly replaced by sadness. . . The realization hits me that Brad won’t be here to turn on the lights anymore.
Earlier this afternoon we had buried Brad Robinson at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Brad had died two days earlier when struck by a drunk driver. As I sat in the pavilion, the events of the last three days came over me again. The shock of losing Brad so suddenly, the pain of sharing the news with his staff friends, the sorrow of seeing his parents, sisters, and grandparents in such grief. Even now my head was still pounding from the tears and emotion of the day.
Then I thought about the joys of the last three days. Spanky’s simple reply when I called him of Brad’s death: “I’m happy for Brad.” The strong faith of our staff as they grew closer to each other and Jesus. Ryan’s praise and worship with his guitar for his dear friend. Clay’s words at the funeral….”The peace that passes all understanding.” James story: “Wake up.” In spite of my sorrow, a deep peace filled my heart as I recalled how God is faithful in all circumstances — even tragedy.
Only those who had lived this Monday could understand when I call it a “wonderfully terrible day.” . . .
I get up from my seat and go to begin turning on the lights. I guess it will be my job this evening. I wonder who will be the new light person at Dry Creek now that Brad is gone.
As I walk I think about the first time I saw Brad at Dry Creek. He came in the spring of 1998 to try out as a staffer. I remember him getting out of his truck dressed in overalls. His application had been very impressive although he was only 15 at that time. When I saw Brad there by his truck, I thought “This guy is not 15‑ he looks 20 years old. There was a physical and spiritually maturity about Brad Robinson that made him stand out.
That tryout weekend, Brad won our hearts with his hard work and big smile. When the weekend was over, our adult staff members said, “You better hire him or we’ll never talk to you again.” . . . And so began the special love affair between Brad Robinson and Dry Creek Camp.
When last summer ended, all of the other staffers went home. But I’m not sure Brad ever really went home. Very seldom did a week go by that he wasn’t at the camp. My wife, DeDe, and I laughed as to how you’d see Brad everywhere‑ youth rallies, ball games, the camp, church events. You never knew when you went to an event if he would be there flashing that big smile I will always cherish. Brad just seemed to be everywhere‑ especially at Dry Creek where we never grew tired of having him around.
When he wasn’t there in person, he was ever present in e‑mail or on the phone. I’d like to know how many messages I received from “DCstaffer” and “Bloodwashed.” I picked at him as to how he ever had time for school with his social life, e‑mail, web page, and constant going.
Word kept coming back to me last fall about the tremendous revival that had occurred in Brad’s school due to his deep commitment to Jesus.
I think about my favorite day with Brad. It was this spring. As a school assignment he was to “shadow” a job he was interested in. Of course, he came to Dry Creek to follow me around. He always told me he would take my job from me some day! On this day, he traveled with my mom and me to Glenmora. We were working on chartering a bus for an upcoming senior adult trip. I was so impressed as to how he met adults and visited with my mom. We had lunch at Reggie’s in Glenmora. It was a special day I will always cherish.
. . . All of these memories and emotions come to me as I flip on outside lights. As I walk by the laughing campers, my mind is a thousand miles away.
. . . Then here comes Kristi. She ambles up to me with her big smile. Now Kristi is someone I love as a daughter. She is also a second year staffer but I’ve known her since she was born. I’ve watched her grow up to become the special young woman she is. Kristi says, “Brother Curt, I’m in charge of the lights now. I need someone to help me make sure I know where they all are.” I start to tell her to get with another staff member but then I catch myself. . I’m learning through this to spend time with those you love. . . And Kristi is so special to me. So I reply, “I’ll show you and we’ll visit while we walk.” So we walk and talk as we relive the events of this deeply emotional day.
. . . As we walk, I think about the picture of Brad on my dresser at home. Brad is at our home last spring. He is dressed to kill with a huge smile on his face holding his cool sunglasses. He is on his way to pick Kristi up for the Prom. It’s a wonderful picture that fully reveals the full personality of Brad Robinson.
Kristi and I laugh and talk, even through our tears, as we stroll to each light. As the last light is flipped on and Kristi walks away, I just sit for a while in the coming darkness. The camp lights illuminate various areas of the camp while other areas, away from the buildings, remained shrouded in darkness. Then I think about the light of Brad’s life… About how brightly it shined at Dry Creek… and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church….around LaCamp, Louisiana . . . and at Ray’s Grocery and Hicks High School…how Brad’s light shined brightly and consistently. How even in death his life witnessed as a bright light no drunken driver could snuff out.
And I’m confident that no amount of time will extinguish the bright light of Brad Robinson’s life. He will live on in the hearts of all of us who love him. His witness will continue to shine brightly at Dry Creek long after those of us who love him are gone.
You see when a young person sells out to Jesus, as Brad did, their witness and light burns for all eternity.
The words of Jesus sum it up best:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.”