GREENVILLE — Every Tuesday, you could find Merlin Booker and his wife of 73 years, Marjorie, sharing a meal at their favorite spot, Rob’s Restaurant. Cinda Brubaker, Marjorie and Merlin’s daughter, shared, “Every Tuesday, mom and dad would go to Rob’s, and then they would drive past the old homestead where dad was raised before coming home.”
So, when Sarah Tipple, EverHeart Hospice Aide, heard of Merlin’s special memories with his late wife, who had passed last October, she knew she wanted to try and get Merlin back to their old spot through EverHeart’s “Corynna’s Wish” program.
Cinda said that at first, she was unaware of “Corynna’s Wish,” a program established in 2014 in memory and honor of Corynna Strawser. Corynna’s Wish is a program that helps patients and their families fulfill a wish they cannot accomplish because of financial or physical conditions. “When Sarah said they were going to make it happen, getting him back to Rob’s, he was so excited. Every day he’d ask what day it was, counting down the days to go.”
“I wish someone else could’ve seen the way his face lit up when I told him we were going. He was talking about what he was going to eat before we even went,” shared Tipple.
To help make this happen, special transport was arranged with Spirit Medical Transport and driver Shannon Miller. Looking back on this day, Shannon shared she felt she was meant to help with this special wish on that particular Sunday. She was initially off this day and had plans to have dinner with her mother but just felt called to come into work and transport Merlin.
Brittany Noble, owner of Brittany Carol Photography, volunteered to take professional photos of the event to provide to the family. At first, Noble admitted she was nervous about what kind of situation to expect since the patient was on Hospice. However, she quickly realized that the granddaughter, Haven Zimmer, was one of her close friends from High School, and she was familiar with the family, which made her much more comfortable.
When she arrived at the restaurant, Booker was ready to eat and very focused on his meal. Some of his favorites included mushrooms, green beans, and cherry pie for dessert. His appetite and ability to get around really impressed Noble.
“He just looked so happy,” Noble shared. This didn’t just make his day. You definitely made that man’s year.”
Noble captured candid moments of the family interacting throughout the afternoon, helping them preserve the day’s memories. Small details like the lighting hitting the red cups on the table and the crowds of people filling in after church brought about a sense of nostalgia. “I thought for sure I would see some tears, but it was a really happy day. Everyone was all smiles,” she shared.
Throughout the day, Noble noticed several people approach Booker and thank him for his military service as he was wearing his veteran hat that day. As she observed everything happening that day, she commented on how knowledgeable the aide, Sarah Tipple, was in interacting with Booker.
“Sarah knew exactly what he liked and where he wanted to go. It was like she was part of the family too,” said Noble. “She knew every little detail.”
During the meal, Noble sat with team members from EverHeart Hospice and the Spirit Medical Transport driver, Shannon. “It was incredible for all these strangers to sit together for a common cause,” she shared. “I didn’t know about the Corynna’s Wish program, and I think it is really important for the community to know about it.”
Kristi Strawser, Corynna’s mother, shared about the “Corynna’s Wish” program, “To Corynna, it was about the gestures that mean just as much as the big ones. It’s about the people you meet through the journey and what you can give to others.”
At the end of the meal, Shannon had heard that Merlin’s childhood home was in the same area. She knew she had to take Merlin past his special place. This extra act of kindness meant so much to Merlin and his family, and Shannon shared her appreciation for the opportunity to help Merlin, saying he reminded her so much of her father.
Tipple shared after the dinner, “I know he really enjoyed it. He was emotional when we got back to the house. It was very special to him and his family.”
Cinda said the day was really special to all of them. “He and mom, that was their thing. It meant a lot to us that he got his wish, and he could go, and we got him there. It made everyone feel really happy for him; we were so happy to see him happy.”
Merlin passed away just a few weeks later, joining his wife once again, where perhaps they are again spending Tuesdays together sharing a meal at their favorite spot.