We had such a scare. Two weeks ago, Bernice and her twin sister Beatrice weren't in class, and no one (including the other seniors) knew what was up except there was gossip at the senior center that Bernice had a massive heart attack and got sent to the hospital. I had known Bernice since the very, very first day of this class. And it just so happens that we get along really well because we are very similar in personality. A lot of times Bernice likes to sit next to me, at the seat to my right. Every time in class, she draws a portrait because it's been our inside joke and she's determined to keep it going.
I was gone that day in Seattle, visiting my grandma and my family. And our wonderful co-leader Dee broke the news to me very gently on email. I freaked out. Dee had tried calling Beatrice but couldn't get a hold of her. The hospital said they couldn't release any information. Finally when I got home to Philly, I tried calling Beatrice again. I was afraid that if I had called from Seattle I couldn't have handled the bad news. When I got a hold of Beatrice, and she told me her sister is alright, I was so relieved. Bernice has to rest at home, probably can't come to class in a while.
Heart problems run in their family, and last Thursday right before class Bernice had intense chest pain. But luckily her daughter called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital in time, and they did surgery on her and put in a medical device to keep her arteries open. She stayed in the hospital for 4 days. On the phone, Beatrice told me she had lost all her siblings and "my twin and I" are the only ones left, so she was really nervous, then in the same breath, she assured me she'd definitely be in class the next day - it just so happened that class was the next day. I think our class is where she feels the most relaxed and supported so she really wanted to be there especially because of what had happened. Said she had really missed being seeing everyone the past week. Meanwhile, Beatrice said all this in a super calm tone. Took a lot of time to ask me about my trip and everything.
In class the next day, everyone was so happy to see Beatrice and hear updates about Bernice directly from her. Everyone clapped and cheered when Beatrice walked into the room. And then, wow, Loretta. She walked in with a big smile and told Dee and me that she had a gift - on behalf of the class - for Bernice. When we saw what it was, Dee and I just looked at each other and our eyes simultaneously welled up. We both went speechless for an entire minute. Loretta had put together the most thoughtful gift anyone can ever give Bernice. It had 3 parts: a card plus 2 very special things, one hidden as a mini surprise inside another. I will let Loretta tell you what they are in her story below. Beatrice was very moved, and told us she couldn't wait to bring them to her sister's house right after class.
We miss you Bernice!! Rest up and come back soon!! Our class is not the same without you. Love, The Writing Class.
What Almost Happened
I almost lost my twin sister. I was so afraid. It was 9 of us. Six brothers and three sisters. Now there are just me and my twin Bonnie. I lost two brother’s and a sister. The rest I lost through the years. I did not want to be left here alone without them. We have kids and all that. But we are the last of the older people in the family. We started the family tree – because of God she is still here. No one lives forever. We have to take one day at a time. Everyday is a birthday. I think of everyone here in this center and here at the writing class. She said she misses coming to the class. She sends her love.
Every Thursday I used to attend an exercise class, Silver Sneakers here at the Centre. We would exercise to music and use weights. I would go to this class before the writing began. Now, I would rather go to this writing class. I was worried about Bernice since she was in the hospital and was thinking about something to make her laugh. I found a pocketbook and a toy bus which is perfect since she always writes about her experiences on the bus. I thought that would be nice and make her laugh.
I believe that being nice to others and volunteer work makes me feel better and is the only way I know to cope with things in my life. Sometimes it is hard, but it is worth it.
Click Here to read some of Bernice's latest stories on the bus. Browse our story archive for more stories and drawings ;) by our special friend. Click Here to read her tribute to her twin sister Beatrice.