To Be Remembered and Cherished

Peggy Palmiter

A story on CBS Sunday Morning recently caught my attention.  An 11 year old girl named Ruby accompanied her Mom, a nurse, on her rounds at several nursing homes in Northwest Arkansas.  One day, Ruby decided to take a survey of the nursing home residents.  She asked them “If you could have any three things, any three things at all, what would you want?”  She says she started it just because she was curious what they would say.  She expected them to say money, or a house, or maybe even a Lamborghini.  Instead they surprised her.  Their answers were an electric razor, new shoes, Vienna sausage, a Dr Pepper, larger shirts.  The answers so startled her and were for such basic items, that Ruby turned her surprise into action.  

She started filling the requests the residents made, but decided that wasn’t enough.  So she started a charity called Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents, with a Go-fund Me page to cover her moderate expenses.  Now she takes her surveys and delivers all the requests. The commentator on the show described what we were all feeling by that point.  Yes, Ruby is a treasure and all of those older adults know it.  And the rest of us went away with a soft heart and teary eyes about this tender example of human connection.  But Ruby wasn’t really satisfying the need for food or shoes.  She was satisfying the basic human need to be remembered and cherished.  

I sat quietly at the counter in my kitchen after I heard that story, experiencing many different emotions.  I was amazed and impressed with an 11 year old who had that kind of heart and so cherished the older adults she met. But for me, in part because of what I do every day, the story brought so many additional thoughts and feelings.  I want to share them with you.

I wondered how many of us stay in the present moment sufficiently to see what Ruby saw, to take a moment to remember and cherish someone before us? 

Was the contrast between her expectations of what the older adults would say and the simplicity of their requests an example of where we are in our life?  Can one generation remember and cherish the other?

How many older adults are alone, waiting for someone to ask what they wish for, to remember and cherish them? 

I experience what Ruby did when our MET riders ask for a ride, are so grateful that we can help them, and apologize for having to ask for a ride to two doctors two days in a row.  I rejoice that we can say yes and remember and cherish each one of them.

How do we change our view of what we value in our culture so that Ruby’s action is the action of many, not the action of one or a few?   How do we reach that place where being remembered and cherished is the rule, not the exception?

All of these questions are why I talk to funders and work hard to recruit volunteers.  I feel honored to be able to do what I do every day at Lifespan.  I was struck recently at how many times my conversations with our community members end with “love you.”   Lifespan stands with our older adults every day, in the face of their challenges, and to reaffirm that they are remembered and cherished – without exception.

Peggy Palmiter