Some call it karma, what goes around comes around. Others would say you can’t sit and wait for your best life to happen, you have to take steps to make it happen.
The following (true) story is about a couple of people who shared a special part of their lives together. It didn’t happen by accident. They each made small choices in their lives that eventually led to this very special friendship.
Cheryl was born and raised on a farm in the Buchanan/Galien area. She graduated from Galien High School in 1950.
During her high school years, she worked as a bagger at a local grocery store for $1 an hour. She said that was big money back then. She eventually ended up managing the store and went on to become a certified nursing assistant providing private care.
Cheryl was married for 25 years before her husband passed away several years ago. For 20 years of her married life, she and her husband lived in Winter Haven, Fla.
She told us she couldn’t wait to move back to Michigan, not only to be closer to family, but “there were too many bugs and creepy crawlers in Florida.”
After Cheryl returned to Michigan, she became a Foster Grandparent volunteer, serving at Stark Elementary School in Buchanan. She loved being a Foster Grandma, and did that for nine years. She also volunteered for Hospice at Home.
We met Lisa in 2018, as she called our office to find out how to become a Senior Companion volunteer. She was born in Watervliet, and moved to Benton Harbor as a child.
Lisa grew up in Benton Harbor in the 1950s and 1960s, and graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1965. She and her family moved to Texas around 1977, and raised three sons there. Two still live there, one lives in Florida. Lisa returned to Michigan in 2011.
During most of Lisa’s working years, she worked in health care, either at a hospital, a nursing home or in a doctor’s office.
When her mother began suffering with increasingly significant health issues, Lisa became her caregiver for 13 years until her death. She told us she wanted to volunteer because she knows that “loneliness can be terrible.” Lisa is very active in her church, and goes to the YMCA every day.
When we received a referral for a Senior Companion in Buchanan, we were very happy to realize it was Cheryl, and that now it was an opportunity to give back to someone who spent most of their life giving to others.
It was an easy choice to match her with Lisa, as we knew they would have some things in common. They met each other in May 2018, and we knew immediately this was a great fit.
Lisa goes to see Cheryl twice a week. They go grocery shopping, to a park and occasionally out to lunch. Lisa takes her to doctor appointments and helps Cheryl to stay on track with doctor’s orders.
This spring, they planted flowers and some vegetables together, and they enjoy sitting out on the porch, watching the fruits of their labors ripen.
Recently, Lisa noticed Cheryl had slowed down quite a bit and was coughing occasionally. She told Cheryl she needed to go to the doctor.
“Don’t worry, I have an appointment with him in a couple months,” Cheryl said.
“No, we’re going now,” Lisa said.
When they arrived at the emergency room and began tests, it was quickly discovered she had congestive heart failure and needed immediate treatment. Lisa is now helping Cheryl with follow up, as she undertakes a bit of a new regimen.
Lisa and Cheryl have had a strong bond since the day they met. Often the volunteer/client relationship turns into a friendship, and this one is particularly special.
Cheryl says she doesn’t know what she would do without Lisa. “She is good medicine for me!”
And we know Lisa feels the same way.
Karma? I don’t know.
I think each of these beautiful women took the right steps every day to live their best, most generous lives.
The opportunity to get them together was a gift to me and my team. We are grateful to know them.
Pat Arter is senior volunteer program director of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.