I will remember: Volunteering with the elderly in Costa Rica
Today was an extremely emotional day for me volunteering with the elderly at the nursing home. Justin and I spent some time assisting residents at breakfast and then went directly to the laundry room to help out there. Our time didn’t last long there though as we were called outside to play games with the residents. We got our old dominoes pals together and played several games of dominoes.
I am happy to say that I am the reigning champion with eight wins! Mike, one of our favorite residents, had seven wins and we were neck and neck with wins the whole time we were playing. The fun that these gentlemen have playing this game is incredible! The dominoes even belong to one of the men and he keeps them in his room. People like their hobbies, and dominoes is it for these fellows. I feel lucky to have been able to share in their domino time and watch as they “live it up” and get animated just by playing a very simple game.
Mike, one of our favorite residents, had seven wins and we were neck and neck with wins the whole time we were playing. The fun that these gentlemen have playing this game is incredible! The dominoes even belong to one of the men and he keeps them in his room. People like their hobbies, and dominoes is it for these fellows. I feel lucky to have been able to share in their domino time and watch as they “live it up” and get animated just by playing a very simple game.
When we were finished playing dominoes, we helped feed the mid morning snack to the residents. There is one resident, Javier, who spoke volumes to me with only one sentence today. He speaks a little bit of English but most of the time when he speaks it he begins to cry. As I was feeding him, he stopped me and said (in English), “I think I love you too much,” and had tears in his eyes again. I told him that I loved him too and the reality of us leaving truly began to sink in at that moment. The residents here do know us, whether they are cognitive or not, they can sense our presence there.
We then realized that our workday would be over in about an hour and decided to start saying our goodbyes. We said goodbye to a few of the residents, one of which told us that it was sunny when we were there, and rainy when we were gone. It was a simply way of saying that she enjoyed our time there, and I really wish that I had the language skills to say something as beautiful as that in return. We thanked her and hugged her and made our way to another resident, one of the sweet old women who was always so sweet and filled to the brim with grace. She started speaking to me and even though I could not understand her words, I knew she was thanking me for our service and blessing my return trip home.
That’s when the tears started to flow.
After that we said our goodbyes to Maria, which only made matters worse since we had come to know her fairly well in our time there. I am going to miss her laughter and her smiling face every day! Then we moved on to Eduardo, the director of the nursing home. He sat us down to talk to us and ask us about our experience volunteering in Costa Rica. Justin went ahead and answered him but I just couldn’t do it. I was so emotional!!! Eduardo is so sweet and kind and he just allowed me to cry and not answer the question, knowing full well that I would be posting about my feelings online. I am so glad to have had the privilege to work with such a man. I am excited to know that my friendship will continue with him past our volunteer time there.
After I spoke with Juan, I walked up to Mike, who is another one of my favorite residents. He is the man who came so close to beating me at dominoes, the man who greeted us every single morning by name and in English, the man who asked me to marry him! Haha! I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him very much. And do you know what he said back to me? He looked me straight in the eye and said only one word, “Remember.” I was pretty much sobbing at this point and reassured him that I would remember forever – and then left the nursing home for what will probably be the last time in my life.