By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough/Southborough – Last August Muriel Hart, 89, contacted the Southborough Senior Center in search of a person to come and visit with her on a weekly basis. Responding to the call, summer intern Courtney Wambolt contacted her church, Chapel of the Cross in Westborough, and shared the request with summer (fill-in) administrator Aly Nickerson.
Nickerson, 22, sent out an email to church members sharing the request.
“About a week went by without any responses,” she said, “and I felt moved to follow through with the request. I had really been praying about it because I had just gotten married and was feeling kind of lonely. My husband and I had moved away from a lot of our friends and we hadn's completely connected with people at our church yet who were our age. I felt like this was an answer to prayer. My husband really encouraged me and so I picked up the phone and called Muriel. Two weeks later I was standing at her door.”
The seven months that have followed have been a blessing to both Nickerson and Hart, each filling a void in the other's life.
“She [Aly] fills one of the biggest voids I have,” Muriel said. “We used to have a granddaughter, Lisa, who was taken from us with cancer at age 21.”
Nickerson lost both of her grandmothers when she was a young girl, so Hart is like the grandmother she dreamed of but never had. For both women, the connection was instantaneous.
“Every Thursday, I drive to Muriel's house where she normally has an adorable table all set with laced linens, a tea set with fresh brewed tea, gold plated silverware and plates of fruit and dessert,” Nickerson said. “We chat over our “little tea party” and then clear the table to battle over a game or two of cribbage. It took me several months, but I have finally won a game or two! Cribbage is her favorite game, so this is our weekly plan for the most part.”
Nickerson said that she had no expectations going into the friendship, but she has come to cherish the weekly visits. Hart, who has a light-hearted attitude, has taught her to relax and enjoy life. According to Nickerson, her friend is energetic and funny. Hart, who recently retired after 50 years as the commissioner of the Boy Scouts, has a lifetime of stories and experiences to share.
“It's like we were destined to be friends,” Nickerson said. “Muriel's late husband's birthday is April 3 and my husband and I were married on April 3 so the connection is interesting.”
For Hart and Nickerson, the friendship crosses generations. Nickerson said that she would encourage other young adults to enter into friendships with the elderly. There is much to be taught and equally as much to learn. While the younger friend brings youthful energy to the relationship, the elderly friend brings wisdom of experience.
“I also hope to someday have the kind of relationship and be the kind of encouragement to a younger girl someday when I am older,” Nickerson said. “Through spending time with Muriel, I am encouraged to live my life in such a way that the legacy I have to share now and later in life will be worthwhile.”