A Place with Meaning – Spring 2023

It was our privilege to work with the Kent family during a difficult season. This is their story.

A Place of Meaning- Thuraya Kent

There’s something about being in the great outdoors that nourishes the spirit. Our family was introduced to Highland Retreat in 2014 while on a campout with our church, Capital Baptist Church (Annandale VA). The camping trip became an annual family tradition; a time to relax, cook and fellowship with our church family. This was exceptionally true for our son Malcolm Isaiah Kent. His appreciation of the outdoors developed into his love for two things: playing lacrosse and camping. Malcolm died on January 28, 2023, at the age of 17 due to an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Like some teens, Malcolm sometimes struggled to find his way. As a child on the autism spectrum, he didn’t always feel like he fit in, but when he was outdoors, he was able to show several of his strengths, including playing with the younger kids, hauling wood for other families, or building fires.

While working with younger kids, Malcolm seemed to easily bond with children with special emotional needs. Because of his life experiences, he felt that he could understand their situations better than others. Ironically, while he had patience for other kids who some may consider different, he was frequently impatient with himself and began self-medicating.

While camping, Malcolm didn’t always like the time it took to set up the campsite, but he loved going from campsite to campsite to start fires for the evening meals. It also was not uncommon during campouts to see Malcolm at another family’s campsite, swapping stories and checking out what was on the menu.

Malcolm was an active AWANA volunteer and participated in many church activities and as a young child, he also asked tough spiritual questions. Why was he chosen to have autism? Could God help him to understand people’s interactions better?

As parents nothing prepares you for the decision of how to memorialize your child. As a family, we decided that Malcolm should be remembered for how he lived and the intense way he cared for others.

The memories we created as a family during our campouts at Highland Retreat will always be treasured. Since we camped as a family of five (mother, father, Malcolm, his younger brother and his grandmother), we elected to plant five maple trees in his memory. The scripture on the memorial marker is the same scripture we used on Malcolm’s adoption announcement, I Samuel 1: 27-28 NIV: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” It is our prayer that beneath the maples, other families will create precious memories blessed by our loving Father.