A Volunteer Match
Posted by Becky Lininger
Last week, I visited with a man named Tom. His wife is caring for him in their home and needed someone to stay with him while she took her father to his doctor appointment. Since they live in a brand new subdivision, I was unable to Mapquest the route I needed; I had to call for directions. Tom answered, and I explained my dilemma. He quickly responded that I wouldn't find it on Google either! He went on to provide the directions I needed, and I could tell he was going to be quite a character! I spent three hours with a man whose life will be prematurely shortened by cancer; three hours with a man whose body is being ravaged and robbed of vitality; three hours with a man who was absolutely bursting with life!
We sat down at Tom's computer and watched several slideshows that he made of his life. One was of Tom and his wife, with pictures that went all the way back to their dating days in high school. (They'll celebrate 47 years of marriage this year!) Another slideshow was of his childhood, including pictures of his parents, their wedding, him as a baby, his siblings and favorite family events. Another was of his children and another featured family vacations. In the background of each slideshow, he had chosen perfect music and lyrics that evoked a gamut of emotion. At one point, we both had tears in our eyes! It was a labor of love. I'm sure he spent untold hours working on these slideshows, and I can imagine that as he did, he worked to come to terms with the finality of his disease.
I'm not sure what I expected when I signed up to visit with patients who have little hope for living much longer. But what I'm learning is that life is lived in every small moment. I've learned that hope sustains life. And while I had hoped to offer a sympathetic ear, or to bring some small measure of comfort, I seem to be the one who receives a gift. I didn't expect these visits to be so reciprocal. I didn't expect to connect so deeply with a perfect stranger on a three-hour visit. I didn't expect to draw on the courage so bravely demonstrated by someone in such dire straits. I can only hope that I've touched these wonderful souls as deeply as they've touched mine! Tom, in particular, will stay with me for a long time.
Becky became a JourneyCare volunteer through VolunteerMatch.org. Read Becky's full story from VolunteerMatch here.