I received an email through Team Rubicon detailing a service project to help a woman living in Hemet, CA. She was the mother-in-law to three Marines and suffering from a rare form of cancer. She needed help refurbishing her home prior to its impending sale and her inevitable move to a treatment facility.
When I arrived, I met Kendra, a Marine veteran and our team leader. The team consisted of a few civilians and several Marine and Navy veterans. We worked really well together as a group as it was obvious we all believed in the importance of serving our community.
The tasks at hand mainly consisted of repainting the exterior of the home and building a new fence around the back yard. I helped dig out portions of the ground to prepare it for the fence. This is also allowed me the stress-relieving task of breaking down the old fence with a sledgehammer. Several men in our team were experienced in construction and couldn’t have been more patient or kind in showing me how to use a nail gun and how to properly build a fence.
After working for a few hours, I walked to the front of the house, where the woman we were there to help stood. I saw her staring at her home, crying. I think maybe she was thinking about the memories of that house, of children and family and the moments not easily forgotten. Or perhaps her tears were for the uncertainty that lies ahead and the challenges in life that a new coat of paint can’t fix.
It was a lovely experience to be able to work with a group of people so dedicated to service and the community. The woman showed us her appreciation by baking us a cake, adorned with a thank you letter. She wrote, “I will always remember and be grateful for helping me through this rough time. You have touched my life in such a profound way.” I, too, will always remember her and how, in turn, she touched my life in a profound way as well.
She’s been heavily on my mind since the project. I know unfortunately the odds aren’t in her favor, but somehow I remain optimistic. I don’t know that the odds are ever in our favor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the fight. And I know from her still vibrant spirit, that I noticed in just seconds of meeting her, that she will give it her all, and with any luck, win her fight with cancer.
I think these things are a day-to-day endeavor. First a day, then a week, a month, and even a season. For her, it will be the summer and its too long nights, followed by the change of the leaves into fall. The lingering of the winter and, with any luck, the spring.
It was my honor to work with a fine group of veterans united by the wonderful organization that is Team Rubicon, and it was my sincere privilege to be able to meet a woman whose strength resonates even in a time of such uncertainty.
God bless. Semper Fi.