So many images come to mind when we think of the duo of Gilles and Nicole. Imagine a piece of jewelry made up of two gold heart halves that magnetize to each other to form a whole of great value. A pendant attached to a long chain of friendship. A chain crocheted from precious, durable materials: links of kindness, honesty, listening and trust.
On the day of the interview, in Laval, we had to pick Gilles up at his home and drive him to the home of Nicole, his Great Friend. Normally, he makes this trip by public transport. He came briskly towards us, a big black bag slung over his shoulder, smiling like a Santa in a hurry to finish his round of gift-giving before the little ones woke up. Already, the contents of the bag were piquing our curiosity…
On the way, our GPS failed us, causing us to take a long detour and delaying our appointment with Nicole. It was a blessing in disguise, allowing us to hear what Gilles had to say about his experience as a volunteer with Little Brothers… He says he wasn’t involved in anything at the time, and wanted to do something useful and meaningful, either with teenagers or the elderly. The Little Brothers were his choice.
Applying to be a volunteer involves filling in the interest questionnaire, waiting for the results of a match search and security checks. During this waiting period, Gilles didn’t just sit on his couch and roll his thumbs, he took the initiative to participate in the welcome activities for new volunteers, evening parties and special events. “I loved the atmosphere at Little Brothers parties,” Gilles comments, “everyone is welcoming, you quickly feel like part of the family.”
Then came the day of a first meeting with Nicole… for us too, when we finally arrived at her residence. Nicole was waiting for us at the exit of the elevator, chic and elegant. As we offer our apologies for being late, she instantly forgives us all.
Following a few introductions, she opened up like a love letter out of an envelope. Her words were generous and precise. Her silences, just right.
Hearing her talk about Gilles, it’s as if she has a quill at the tip of her tongue: she speaks as if she’s writing a poem: “I was untamed and opened up to the world… After a major depression, I thought my only solution to the sadness was to ask for medical assistance in dying… Then I heard about Little Brothers. I pictured myself being matched with a kind and funny person, and the more I pictured it, the closer I got to Gilles. There he was… We started talking as if we’d met the day before, like water in a river, it was flowing. He’s generous, honest, straightforward, almost like the perfect man…”
An impeccably dictated verbatim. Pages and pages of profound gratitude. And Gilles sitting modestly at the end of the table, his head bowed, a comma smile on his face as his Great Friend shares her affection for him.
“… He’s the locomotive and I follow him. The lives we share with each other are hidden from the rest of the world… Treat yourself to a nice gift, someone who volunteers, it’s reassuring, Gilles is reassuring. Come out of your isolation, because someone else is isolated…”.
This was indeed the case for Gilles, who had drifted away from his loved ones and felt the need to share moments with someone. And if these moments are useful, they’re a blessing.
The moment arrives when he unpacks his bag… packs of cards, a Cribble board, a chessboard, a Backgammon game box, everything to fill the emptiness or the silences and fill them with laughter, foolishness and fun. Gilles has more than one trick up his sleeve: he’s an amazing unifier and a natural entertainer. When he takes out his harmonica and plays us a folk reel, the memories flow and intertwine, passing from Nicole’s memory to Gilles’. Everything comes together: the sugar shack he organized for Nicole, the piano recital he gave at Christmas, the bags of autumn apples, the table field hockey games.
I even cook dandelion jam when the weather’s nice,” he explains, “and Nicole loves it!
From poetry to literature, we move on to theater, Gilles getting up and performing the dance scene he had once initiated, with his Grande Amie and other residents… Of all the beauties in the world, this duo! He concludes by emphasizing the importance of preserving our Quebec heritage by taking care of the seniors around us. ” If you want to recall part of your youth, be reminded of old times that will never come back, go and meet a Great Friend to make sure it lasts a little longer.”
Gilles and Nicole’s precious duo is like a jewel made up of two different time periods, yesterday and today, linked by the strength of their attachment to one another, and decorated in the finest finery of friendship. Just before leaving, Nicole shares a secret gem with us: “Each of his visits gives me something to look forward to for two weeks, and I can’t wait for him to come back.”
Many thanks to Gilles and Nicole for sharing their friendship in such an elegant way. A jewel of friendship that we’d all like to wear with pride.
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