Fall 2018 Seniors Helping Seniors Spring Scholarship – 2nd Place Winner
Bay Alarm Medical
November 11, 2018
As I sat in my grandfather’s thrift store, I would smell the fumes of the old store, the scent of rust and polish making a place for itself in the air. As a small child I would walk the aisles and look at the various dolls and knick-knacks, knowing he would let me take home anything I wanted at the end of the day. As he got older, my visits with my grandfather shifted from his thrift store to hospitals and eventually a nursing home. Throughout the last few years of his life, even as his health was failing, my grandfather continued to take a strong interest in my life. He would come to my swim meets and recitals when he was able, and often gave me life advice based on his own experiences.
Two summers ago, my family and I endured the loss of my grandfather. At his funeral, several of the staff from the nursing home came and said kind words about him. They even brought some residents with them to pay their respects to my grandfather. After having these experiences with the elderly, I was inspired to give back to the nursing home community that had done so much for him.
When I had visited my grandfather at the nursing home, I noticed that many residents do not get a lot of visitors and are often lonely. In the fall of my junior year, I began volunteering at the WNC Baptist Home to visit with those residents. At first, I was unsure how it would go, but after a month of visiting I realized what a positive impact I had on each resident’s day. I wanted to do even more, and began looking for other ways to do so. I noticed that one thing the elderly liked about being around me was my youth. I also noticed that many of their rooms lacked artwork. I decided I would go to my local elementary school, West Buncombe, and ask the art teacher there to have her students make cards and artworks for me to deliver to the residents. She agreed, and got the students to make over 100 art pieces!
On most Mondays, I visit the nursing home to deliver the art and brighten each resident’s day. I call the program “Monday Mail.” Starting “Monday Mail” has not only allowed me to serve others, but also brighten my own day by helping those in need. These visits enrich my own life because of the conversations I have with the residents, and the life lessons that they give me. Many of them like to give me words of advice, like my own grandfather used to do. Their years of experience provide a valuable perspective and I really appreciate the relationships I am developing with the residents through the “Monday Mail” program.
Many of my friends have not had close relationships with grandparents the way I have had, nor are they around older people the way I am. I think that not only are they missing out on important relationships, they also may be missing an opportunity to learn more about their own selves. What I found with my grandfather and now with some of the residents at the WNC Baptist Home is that because of their life experiences and perspectives they often know exactly the words to say to me to help me be a better version of myself.
During one of my last conversations with my grandfather while he lay dying in the nursing home, I told him that I had really enjoyed my biology class the previous semester, especially genetics. He perked up, and in a weak but clear voice told me that I should be a doctor one day. He always encouraged me and thought that I could achieve anything I set my mind to doing. In the summer of 2018, I received the honor of being selected as one of two students at my high school to be a part of the Mission Possible internship at Mission Hospitals in Asheville, NC. Through Mission Possible I was able to learn about a multitude of medical specialties. I was even able to follow up with a Neurologist after the internship was over; I was able to shadow her, going on rounds to see her patients, and learning how to read an EEG. She also explained to me the current research in the field as well as what surgeries she oversees. I really loved it, and my experience with shadowing the neurologist solidified my interest in pursuing a career in medicine. I think my grandfather would be pleased.
My grandfather, who I called Papaw, and I shortly before his death in July 2017.