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Do our volunteers connect us to those unexpected moments, the ones that last?

Greg had volunteered to help Roy, the brother of one of our hospice patients. Roy’s brother had died and as the only living relative, it was Roy’s job to empty out his brother’s house. It was a hot summer afternoon and I left work early to stop by. “Can you use some help?” I asked.  Greg wiped the sweat from his face and said, “yes.”

Some of the household items went to our thrift store, the bigger ones were given to neighbors and the rest were placed at the curb for trash pickup. As I was carrying a box to the street, I noticed Roy placing a plastic blow mold snowman in the pile. It must have been the way I studied the old Christmas decoration, because Roy looked at me and said, “would you like to have it?’

I touched the snowman’s hat, the jaunty band of yellow circling the snow-covered brim. “I would if you don’t mind.”

“My brother Michael loved Christmas,” Roy said wistfully and looked around at the remnants of his brother’s life scattered in so many directions.

I lifted the snowman, taking in his smile. “If it is all right with you,” I said, “I’m going to name him Michael.”

Roy nodded. The cars zipped by us, the garbage bags flapping in their wake.

“And every year, I will bring him out, light him and I will say, Merry Christmas, Michael. Is that ok?”

Roy put his hand on my shoulder. “I’d like that.” He touched the old plastic face, his fingers tracing a farewell of sorts. I carried the snowman to my car.


Every holiday season, for more than 10 years now, I’ve brought out the snowman with the jaunty hat and lit him up.

Merry Christmas Michael.


Have a very happy New Year.