Heart2Heart’s volunteer of the month for August is 14-year-old Christina Paschal, who made daily visits to assist an older woman in her final days.
At the beginning of the summer, Christina began visiting Ms. Joyce for two to three hours each day. Christina’s mother and Ms. Joyce’s daughter worked for the same real estate company. Ms. Joyce knew Christina from the time when she was a toddler, running around the office.
Recently, Ms. Joyce suffered a stroke and other health issues. She needed a companion in between visits from her nurses. Christina offered to help.
“I was a little nervous,” Christina admitted recently. “I wasn’t sure she wasn’t going to like me. But as I got to know her, she was always happy to see me. And I was really happy to see her.”
The nurses gave Christina worksheets to help Ms. Joyce recover specific brain functions after her stroke. Together, they would practice pronunciations, spelling, math and motor skills.
“She was very smart. The exercises were to help get her brain working again,” Christina explained. “Sometimes, I would just talk to her when she was not in the mood.”
The two shared a love of dancing. Ms. Joyce once ran a successful dance studio in New York. Christina performed Irish dancing for six years when she was younger.
In fact, it was Irish dancing that first taught Christina the joy of helping seniors. Christina’s dance group often performed at four local nursing homes. After their performance, they would get a chance to talk to the residents.
“I loved to see all the seniors smile and clap, enjoying us all there,” Christina said. “It was a really good opportunity.
During their visits, Ms. Joyce would tell Christina about dancing in her younger days. They would discuss their favorite colors and favorite flowers. Christina would talk about the swimming competitions that kept her busy over the summer.
Near the end of July, Ms. Joyce’s daughter shared the heartbreaking news: Ms. Joyce had passed away. Christina was in Stuart, swimming in the Junior Olympics when her mother told her.
“After some tears and an emotional conversation, she decided to dedicate her final 50 Free swim to Joyce,” Christina’s mother, Lori Schlueb, explained.
Christina made it to the top 16 of her age group in the Junior Olympics finals that evening.
“I wanted to try my best, because I knew she would be watching,” Christina said. “It was hard, but at the same time, I was glad to know that she was happy. It was best for her to be in a better place.”
“She wanted to keep fighting,” Christina added. “But it’s good because she’s not suffering.”
Christina wants to continue to volunteer with her mom, delivering meals through Heart2Heart’s Food for Hope program. She’s hoping to start volunteering at a care center, assisting an activities director.
She also wants to encourage other teenagers to volunteer, maybe if they don’t have other things to fill their time.
“Just try to volunteer, even if it’s not with seniors,” Christina said. “It’s a good way to make other people happy so you can be happy.”
Thank you, Christina, for bringing joy to Ms. Joyce when she needed extra cheer. We know she appreciated it.