March 16, 2012 at 3:01 am

To The Infamous Sara Saar, Farewell

*from Sara’s FB page, visiting her son at college, fall 2010 

I can’t recall much about the first conversation we ever had. I called her, having gotten her name from our camp director. She and her husband wanted to volunteer for the week of camp that we run. Two people volunteering? Awesome find! I eagerly called the number scrawled on the back of an envelope. Shutting the door to our bedroom I sat perched atop the mattress, legs folded underneath me. And the phone rang. She picked up, and she walked right into my heart.

That was seven years ago. She volunteered summer after summer. Her husband would counsel, she would cook. Their son was a camper when we first started. Their daughter was in high school and tagged along, donning the handkerchief of the kitchen staff when she wasn’t running back and forth volunteering at vacation bible school, working a summer job or caring for the animals left behind on their farm. As the son grew older, he started volunteering as well. Bringing his bright orange drum set, and his ridiculous sense of humor. They quickly became and integral part of our camp family. One week a year, completely a part of each other’s lives. Catching up on 51 weeks of “stuff”.

Her name was Sara. Sara Saar. The simplicity of it, the straight forward arrangement of the exact same letters. It fit her to a tee. She was a blatantly honest woman. Yet she said everything from an immensely pure place in her heart. Not meant to hurt, only to help you further along life’s path. And she was freakin funny. Hysterically so.

I can still see her setting up in the bedroom downstairs, the center of the staff dorms. A room with two queen sized beds right as you opened the door from upstairs. She would always take the one right in front of the door. She would spread out her quilt and pillows from home. And there she would sit as you walked in. She held court every night of that week. We would all gather in her room. It was the place to be.

Whether you were telling the story or it was her, inevitably you would end up in breathless laughter. Seriously. Like I can’t breathe, I need a second, will you please stop for just a minute double over kind of laughing. She would get to the heart of whatever conversation and interpret it into Saraisms in no time. We would always stay up way too late, but you never wanted it to end.

She loved babies. So much. She loved to hold them for hours. Swaying in the back of the room as chapel was held, rocking to sleep cranky babies out of their at home routine. Giving exhausted moms and dads a break. Treasuring every second. Smelling them. A lot. Breathing in their fresh from God beauty.

Sara took care of hundreds of us over the years. Getting up in the wee hours of the morning to make breakfast, staying until everything was cleaned up after dinner. Coming up with delectable concoctions from the rather bland offerings of a summer camp kitchen. My mouth still salivates at the thought of these pepper and onion and meatball type things that were beyond delicious. I couldn’t wait for leftover night to just eat them again.

Then there was the five alarm french toast. If you think that has anything to do with a spicy taste, you would be mistaken. It was this amazing Sara Saar invention of french toast layered with fruit fillings in a lasagna type of fashion, then set in an oven to bake. The only problem being the first year she made it the pans bubbled over. The fruit filling covered the bottom of the stove and promptly set the kitchen on fire. I was 36 weeks pregnant with Eli, and I will never forget the wake up knock on my door alerting me not to have a panic attack but the fire trucks were on their way.

That day we fed 75 people on the deck of the camp center in Styrofoam bowls filled with dry cereal as we all watched as the fire trucks vented the building. Nothing serious had happened. We were spared anything big. And the staff spent the next hours cleaning everything down as the foam used needed to be scrubbed off.

The next year Sara made the dish again, making sure to not overfill the pans. It was as good as it sounds. But we named it five alarm french toast for the need for the fire siren to sound the year before.

It was soon after the summer of the toast ablaze that Sara found out she had breast cancer. She did well for quite awhile. Early last summer we found out that things had gotten quite a bit worse. A month before camp I got an email that they would not be able to make it. Just the son came to play drums. It was like the soul of our camp body was missing.

These past few months have been difficult. Treatments that did not bring the results we had all hoped. Struggles for the entire family. Young adult children starting to grasp the enormity of life without their mother. Their amazing, strong-willed matriarch left in a body that was failing.

Today Sara Saar went to meet our Heavenly Father. She leaves behind her amazing husband and her two children in their early twenties. She did her job well. Upon her passing her children wrote some of the most touching words to their friends and family. They used words like “I have had the pleasure of having Sara Saar as my mother for the first 20 years of my life. She has taught me more than I can even know” and “The miraculous, beautiful, smart, woman that I call Mommy no longer has to battle this cruel world…she is with her heavenly father”! Her children rose up and called her blessed. Her work is complete.

Tonight my heart aches. Not for Sara, but for the loss of Sara. She was such a presence, such an amazingly huge and incomparable presence. She has touched so many with her life. Her faith was strong. Some of her last words were “God is in charge”. I would be remiss if not to say that Sara Saar was a child of God. She loved the Lord with all her heart, and she would want us all to do the same. She wanted to be sure that everyone knew God. I hope that the example she has set forth in life continues to inspire her family, friends and anyone else who comes in contact with her story. She was loved, but man did she love others.

Today I have shed many tears. I have also laughed through many a memory. Because if there is one thing that Sara Saar did without a doubt, it was the ability to make anyone laugh. I take comfort in knowing she is healed now, and making Jesus laugh heartily.

Goodbye my friend. Thank you for your years of service. Thank you for you friendship. Thank you for the talks, the lessons and the laughs. And please, ready a plate of five alarm french toast for me when I get there…

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