Meggan Eiben


Meggan Eiben

Date of Death: February 20, 1991

Meggan, from Marquette, was a Bay Cliff camper in Unit V (Sam’s Place) for five summers in the 1980’s.

“Meggan brought her enthusiasm, music, and love to Bay Cliff for five summers. She shared her smiles and happiness with everyone, and taught us how to live each day to the fullest. Meggan will be especially remembered for her eagerness to participate in unit shows and for brightening our days with her songs. Meggan’s spirit will always be a part of Bay Cliff!” –From the 1991 Yearbook Dedication.

A Butterfly Story
Picture this: A broad field of tall grass and wildflowers waving in the soft wind on a warm and sunny summer day. Somewhere a delicate, multi-colored butterfly flaps in its beautiful and erratic way among the flower heads, lighting briefly, flying off, making its way slowly, carelessly. It stops to light on a warm stone, its wings fanned opened to collect the warmth of sunshine, its tiny heart slowing in rest. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a crow, following its own wired-in purpose, dives to the stone and with one violent stab, collects the butterfly in its beak and returns to the nearest tree branch to swallow what he has earned. Butterfly gone. Imagine this: the whole world, the entire web of living things, whether aware of it or not, is affected by the loss of the butterfly.

I have my own butterfly story. This one has a different outcome. My butterfly was my daughter, Meggan. She was my first child, born with multiple disabilities and a debilitating chronic illness. As you might imagine, life for her was not always easy. It is difficult to be sick and require frequent hospitalizations. It is difficult to move around with ease in Marquette in a wheelchair. It is difficult to tackle academic tasks when your eyes don’t see well and your hands won’t write. It is difficult to make friends when you look so different but, paradoxically, require friends all the more for affirmation of your worth. It is difficult, mostly, to depend on others for assistance in just about all areas of your life when all you want more than anything in the world is to do things for yourself. If challenge and difficulty were colors on wings, my daughter would be the most spectacularly colored butterfly you have ever seen.

As Meggan’s mother, it was my responsibility and challenge to find places where she could spread her wings and fly – safely and without inhibition. Those places were hard to come by, but we found one great haven – one truly remarkable “field of dreams” in Bay Cliff Health Camp. It was during her summer days at Bay Cliff that Meggan found most of what she needed and craved. First, it was unconditional acceptance and compassionate support from loving counselors and staff who’d grown quite good at seeing past “exteriors” and into the heart of another where life really counts. Then it was through her connection and proximity with others her age who may have had similarly difficult lives in the outerworld, who looked, talked, or learned a little different. There is something very comforting about spending time with peers who climb the same kinds of mountains. With these summer friends, there was nothing necessary to hide, no reason to feel “less than.” And with these same kindred spirits, Meggan had fun! doing things she might otherwise not have done – boat rides and camp-outs, arts and crafts, songs and skits, swimming, dances, dressing up to walk the 4th of July Parade in Big Bay – her letters home were rich with stories full of adventure. In the summer at Bay Cliff, Meggan really lived! She worked, too, making more progress in cognitive functioning, independent living skills, speech and language, occupational and physical therapy than she made all the rest of the year. Intensity has its reward.

If Meggan is my butterfly, imagine Bay Cliff being the field of waving grass, dotted with wildflowers, quietly offering up what the butterfly needs and enjoys, nurturing and supporting a small but invaluable life. The butterfly with colorful wings flaps and darts, lands on the warm rock to sun itself. No crow comes; in fact, there is nothing in sight to threaten or disturb it. Now the whole world of living things is being given a gift: the life, beauty and contentment of the butterfly. Aware of it or not, we are all affected. Our family is profoundly grateful to Bay Cliff Health Camp.

By: Melissa Eiben

*Note: Meggan Eiben died in 1991 at age 10 from complications due to her chronic illness. She had spent several fun summers at Bay Cliff Health Camp.

Melissa Eiben is a speech pathologist and mother and is married to Carl Eiben, a physiatrist.

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