Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Caitlin (Surprise!)

I have thought long and hard about when to share this with you, and feel like now is the right time. I thought I was going to be sharing bad news, but I was wrong, what I get to share is one of the happiest unfolding of events that I have ever experienced – even though it began with a sad start.

Beatrice’s health declined rapidly at the end of last year, and finally she had to stop coming to the group. I was devastated at first. As you all know from all the posts I have written of her over the years, I am very, very close with her. But then… well, leave it to our senior buds to turn something sad into something amazing!!! Hint: Youtube, Facebook, visits, texts, phone calls, and of course, stories… every communication medium under the sun came into play on this. And just to be super clear – the initial use of Youtube was the seniors’ idea, not mine or any other facilitator’s. That’s right!! And to tell you about it, I have enlisted the help of one of our loyal, amazing facilitators, Caitlin. Around here, as Beatrice always says, we are special because we are like a family.
Caitlin Cieri

Before I update you on the latest events at our group, I’ll need to give you a little bit of history. Beatrice Newkirk has been with our group for an incredibly long time. Even before she first started coming, her twin sister Bernice was one of the four seniors who attended our first session in 2009. Soon after that, Beatrice and Bernice became Best Day regulars, coming with a new story or poem every single week. Unfortunately, Bernice fell ill and had to move into a nursing home. Beatrice continued attending in Bernice’s stead and started taking on more and more tasks as the group grew. She called out the reading order, she collected the seniors’ writings, she welcomed new seniors and guests, and she even rallied the group into throwing a surprise party for Benita’s baby. Recently, Beatrice has not been feeling well and has been absent from the group for a few months. A couple weeks ago, our seniors decided to cheer her up with an impromptu video greeting.

When we posted it on Facebook, her daughter Renee commented almost immediately:
Beatrice herself did one better. Since she lives in Lebanon with another daughter and can’t come back to Best Day until she gets better, she decided she’d surprise her friends in the group with a telephone call. She set it up with Benita. Then Rachel (who recently joined us as a facilitator), Benita and I texted each other surreptitiously to make sure we got all the details right. We even invited the Senior Center’s Director, Julie Allen-Nelson, and Beatrice’s close friend Mrs. Constance “Bess” White (who had never been to a Best Day session before) to watch the action unfold. We made that fateful call at 1:20 P.M.
Unfortunately, we got the answering machine the first time. So we tried again, only to get a busy signal. Finally, Beatrice picked up on the third call. All of the seniors exploded with delight and the opportunity to talk to their old friend after so long. In fact, this was actually the first time Rachel and Beatrice had actually talked together, and they both got along swimmingly. Beatrice even recited a poem she had recently written:

Beatrice Newkirk
In God’s Hands

We are in God’s Hands, here where we stand
Because of Him we are here
He shows us He cares
In God’s hand is every way,
He helps us make our day
He hears our cries, and He hears our pleas,
He knows where we want to be
In God’s hands big and strong
Help us to do no wrong
In God’s hands he holds us up
Giving us love from loving cup

Next, we read some of her stories aloud from this very blog! Norman was especially excited to have me read “Our Advice to Others” while Beatrice was on the line.

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Advice for Others

We are special because we are like a family. We are made up of different people. We feel close to each other. We learn from others.

Coming back every week is a blessing. Being away, we can’t wait until the next time.

I feel comfortable when I hear from other members. And I can’t wait to see new people and hear their stories.

We care and respect everyone. Everyone is welcome to our class.

The kind of person having a class like our writing class has to have experience and has to have been through something. That is our teacher Benita.

My daughter and family get a kick out of our class. They see our stories on the internet and sometimes it relates to them.

Our class is special because we are like a family.

The good news is that Beatrice is feeling much better and hopes to be back to the group one day. In the meantime, everyone here will continue to spread the Best Day spirit by writing about their lives, and writing about the lives of our close friends and family. After seeing all the time everyone took to catch up with Beatrice and recreate the group through the phone lines, I like to think we’re a little of both.

And before I forget, we videotaped the whole phone call! Take a look and leave us your thoughts on Facebook!