“At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time, and none of you knew it.” (Author unknown.) This popped up in my Facebook feed a couple weeks ago. The memories flooded back to my childhood days with my best friend, who has made Texas her home. I shared it with her, and we both zoomed back to the 60’s.
We climbed trees better than the neighborhood boys. We played marbles, went swimming, canoeing, and fishing. We picked blueberries for a little cash, and cleaned out horse stalls in exchange for free horseback riding. We walked or biked everywhere. In the winters, we went tobogganing, skating and sledding until our faces were numb.
I hadn’t thought of those days in quite a while. It was a serious wave of nostalgia. When we chatted about it we tried to remember what might have been “the last time”, but of course we couldn’t.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about other last times that I didn’t know would be last times. Friends, family members who left us unexpectedly.
In our Senior Volunteer Program, we work with people age 55 – 92. In the 13+ years I’ve worked here, we have lost a few volunteers, which I suppose would be natural. But when unexpected, the memory of the last time tends to linger with us a bit longer.
The Senior Companions’ volunteer service involves providing companionship to other seniors and adults with disabilities. The Senior Companion can also help clients with grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments, or simply go for a walk or get an ice cream together. The bonds that are made in those weekly visits are far beyond an assignment. In many cases a lifelong friendship is made.
Beyond their assigned time, volunteers and clients will chat on the phone, talk about their pets, their kids, books they’re reading, or just whatever is on their mind.
One thing we try to do with clients is to help them make a Memory Book. We help them log events from their lifetime. It is so fun to see faces light up when a certain memory is recalled. Sometimes it takes months to get through it, and often with the help of a child or other loved one to fill in the blanks. It also becomes great conversation starters, and brings lots of laughter. It is also where bonds are formed and where memories are preserved.
One Senior Companion called last week to let us know one of her clients passed away. This volunteer has lost four clients in the past year. While not all the volunteers and clients become best friends, the relationships are deep. The loss is great.
Each time one of these ‘last times’ are remembered, yes, there is sadness; but there is also the joy of reliving part of their lives. Maybe a little comfort too, that you have passed that memory on to someone else or preserved it for your family when they remember their ‘last time’ with you.