The Threads That Bind
Much like the intricate quilt given to me by an aunt, I believe that we are all connected by a nearly transparent thread of life. If I take the time to look, listen, and ask questions, the delicate tapestry of my world is revealed. I also believe that when I follow my heart, I end up exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m reposting a fresh version of a story from a couple of years ago that reinforces those beliefs.
As I skimmed a list of volunteer opportunities in my local newspaper, my eyes settled on two words, Story Keeper. I paused to read more. Story Keepers capture the meaningful moments of a patient’s life. The simple description intrigued me as I’d always dreamed of writing life stories of other people.
As enticing as the opportunity sounded, the thought of volunteering with a hospice care organization weighed heavily on my mind. The pain of watching my mother die a slow, difficult death associated to Alzheimer’s made me question my ability to perform the service and keep my emotions under control. I cut out the contact information and let the thought simmer.
The clipping remained visible near my laptop for the next two weeks, tugging at my heart and urging me to act. Finally, I picked up the phone and called the manager of volunteer services listed in the ad.
“I may be interested in the Story Keeper position. Can you tell me more about it?”
“We’re looking for someone to record the life story of a hospice patient for their family to keep as a legacy after the patient passes.”
“Oh,” I felt a hint of disappointment. “I’m not adept at electronic things, more pen to paper.”
“Why don’t you come in and talk further about it? It’s a new position. We can work through the details. And while it doesn’t involve writing, you never know where the journey will lead you. Maybe it was meant for you.”
The charismatic manager’s reassuring words urged me to make a leap of faith. I met with her to learn more. Within two weeks, I’d completed all the prerequisites: TB tests, study guides about working with hospice patients, and Hepatitis injections.
It wasn’t long before I was assigned my first visit. I studied the manual that came with the small, hand-held recorder. Since I was the first person to fill the position, training had been minimal. The anxiety and nervousness I anticipated never surfaced. Instead, an unexpected tranquility about the process made me excited to get started.
“The patient is hesitant to make the recording.” My manager warned me on the drive to his home. “The wife is urging him to do it for her. I thought you should know before we get there.”
The patient’s wife greeted us at the door and invited us in. The man, already seated in a recliner, extended his hand and nodded as he studied my face.
My manager made introductions and a brief explanation for our visit. The man frowned and grumbled, pursing his lips. Then it was my turn to speak. I wanted to help him relax and feel comfortable about the recording.
“We’re just going to talk today. I’d like to get to know you and your wife.”
“Ok.” The tense lines around the man’s eyes eased.
“Did you grow up in Florissant?” I smiled and tilted my head awaiting his response.
“Jennings. I went to Corpus Christi grade school.”
“I know that school. I attended St. Paul the Apostle. We were practically neighbors.”
“I went to St. Paul’s!” His wife announced with excitement. “Oh my goodness! You’re Dorothy’s daughter. I saw the resemblance to your mother when you first arrived, but couldn’t place who you were.”
My eyes welled with tears at the mention of my mother. I was unable to say anything for fear I’d start crying.
“I’m your grandmother’s niece. We’re cousins. I grew up two blocks from you.”
I realized that I knew her parents well, but because of our age difference, our paths had crossed briefly, probably at a funeral, but at a time when I was too young to remember. The emotional journey over the next hour was emotionally rewarding. The wonderful stories about my mother, who was an only child, and her distant cousins with whom I had lost touch over the years, brought such joy to my heart, I left the visit feeling like I was given a gift, one that I would treasure for life and share with my siblings. I even learned that my grandfather saved my cousin from drowning in the Mississippi River when she was a teenager.
Over the next few visits, I recorded heartwarming and memorable stories told to me by the patient and his wife. From their heritage, to their marriage and their many life experiences, we worked together to create a treasured gift for their children, grandchildren and future generations. I completed the project and presented the audio recording to them on their 65th anniversary.
Although the story doesn’t end there, in fact it is just the beginning of my journey, I’ve learned my readers are busy folks and prefer quick reads. I’ll share more in my next post.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you.
When have you made an unexpected connection with someone?
Do you follow your heart or are you more likely to try and control where you are headed?
2 thoughts on “The Threads That Bind”
I had very little connection with those that I attended school with as a child, but making a reconnection is an unexpected surprise .
You have an opinion that I find encouraging , I don’t know if you knew that I was a very shy and introverted person . Anyone that talked to me started my anxious start at trying to get them to like me . When that didn’t happen, I felt more uncomfortable about friendships or even a casual relationship . Never figured out how to do it . Others seemed to relate quickly and remained close . I opened up to let them see that I was ok and wanted to get to know them . I tried way too hard to overcome and went inside more .
I was made fun of because I tried too hard . I know that . Getting into troubles was a way to get noticed that I was not my sister and ,when I ended up with several of her teachers, comparisons were made . I hated that because I could never be up to her level . She had close relationships and I didn’t .
So, reaching out is still very hard for me to do, I am still opening up more than I should, I guess . I do have casual friends but I have a hard time trusting .
I love that you have found a place to help . I did a lot of volunteering and it really makes a heart warmer , when you can help others . You are doing a good thing .
Shelagh, there is much pain and attempts to heal in your story. It is so difficult to improve our self-esteem when surrounded by negativity. Too often the path is obscure until later in life. When I volunteer, it fulfills my need for purpose. I never have to look too far to find someone whose problems far exceed the minor inconveniences of my life. I’ve been blessed. But I learned along the way that I needed to pay attention to my needs, too. I am worth it, and you are too. Thank you for sharing a part of your soul.