January 23, 2015

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Letters tells story of bond between students and seniors

Lilly Boring of St. Rose of Lima School in Franklin gets a kiss on the cheek from Margaret Rainey. The two became friends through a pen-pal program between students at the school and residents of a nearby assisted-living community. (Submitted Photo)

Lilly Boring of St. Rose of Lima School in Franklin gets a kiss on the cheek from Margaret Rainey. The two became friends through a pen-pal program between students at the school and residents of a nearby assisted-living community. (Submitted Photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Lilly Boring and her fellow eighth-grade students couldn’t hide their excitement as they waited for their special guests to arrive.

For months, the students at St. Rose of Lima School in Franklin had been exchanging pen-pal letters and photographs with residents of Morning Pointe, an assisted-living home in the same community. The connection turned to anticipation when the students’ religion teacher, Lynne O’Brien, told them that some of the residents would be coming to the school for lunch in November.

“We couldn’t wait,” Lilly recalls. “The day finally arrived, and we all had a blast. Only eight residents were able to come, and my pen pal was not one of them. However, it was still special to see how excited everyone was when they arrived to school. We all talked and had a great time. I sat with my friend, Brooklyn, and her pen pal, Margaret. Even though Margaret was not my pen pal, she kissed me and treated me like I was hers. It was amazing.”

Lilly had the same feeling when she saw the interaction between other students and residents.

“One of the other pen pals, Johna Mae, sat down and was joined by my good friend, Valerie. Johna Mae started crying, and Valerie was concerned. ‘I’m just so happy I finally get to meet you,’ Johna Mae said. She gave Valerie a hug. Valerie found out that Johna Mae recently had a stroke, but she didn’t want Valerie to worry so Johna Mae waited until Valerie could see she was OK.”

After lunch and a few hours of hugs and conversation, the special guests had to leave—but not before a memorable goodbye.

“My eighth-grade class lined up at the door and cheered as they filed out the door,” Lilly says. “They smiled and gave us high-fives. One of the pen pals said, ‘This is the best send-off I’ve ever had.’ They couldn’t have looked any happier. They all waved from the bus until they couldn’t see us anymore. The entire day was so special.”

Another special moment came when Lilly met her pen pal, Betty, a few weeks later.

“I met her when we went to play volleyball at Morning Pointe on a Saturday afternoon,” Lilly says. “I found out she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember writing to me. Mrs. O’Brien told me that someone told her that Alzheimer’s patients often do not remember what happened to them that day or who they talked to. But they do remember how they feel.

“She told me Betty wouldn’t remember why, but she would feel happy that night when she went to bed. That was enough for me. It makes me and my classmates feel good to know that we are spreading God’s love to these special friends.” †

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