Marked by his years in Vietnam, a seventy-four year old Caris Healthcare patient initially felt very guarded during early visits with the Caris team. A quiet man, he cherished a Navy annual that he received during his service, carefully storing the book near his side. He served six years, four of them on a Navy vessel. The annual he treasured contained the inside stories of that war. Those stories are hard for any veteran to share, but as the Caris team visited the patient and built connections, he gradually began to share.
During a visit with Becky Lewis, the social worker, he gently retrieved his annual and looked through its pages with her. He encouraged her to take it home with her, promising her the book would portray “what life was really like during those times; not what the media reflected.” Honored by his gift of vulnerability, Becky brought the annual to a team meeting and shared it with the Caris staff.
Inspired by the treasure, Callye Norsworthy, the Volunteer Coordinator, decided to return his favor with a treasure of her own. She carefully removed pictures of the patient in his uniform, the ship, and his fellow seamen and copied them. Wanting to do something very special, she reprinted the pictures and placed them in a frame. She then made a certificate honoring him for his military service.
With Veteran’s day right around the corner Callye and Becky, delivered the gifts to the patient. His proud eyes lit up with joy, and with a glimmer of tears, he stammered, “you got by me on this one.” He asked his brother to put the picture and the certificate where he could see them every day. In awe of the newly acquired treasure he repeated, “this means so much to me.”
He was not the only one touched with sentiment. Moved by his gratitude and joy, tears welled in the team’s eyes for having the privilege of seeing the joy this gift brought to the patient. They were honored to serve on a team that brings such meaningful experiences, creating new memories that encourage hospice patients.