In his younger days, Vinal Thomas was a vibrant, pew-jumping pastor. He and his late wife helped plant nearly 30 churches, and he constantly ministered to everyone around him.
At 93, Vinal still can talk to absolutely anyone. He remains active in Bible study, men’s group, and attends church every Sunday.
But life has slowed and changed since his heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery 13 years ago. After Vinal gave up his driver’s license five years ago, he relies on others to help him maintain his busy social calendar.
Particularly his youngest daughter, Tammy Hoskins — who is also a mother to two boys, ages 18 and 13, and wife to a husband who often travels for ministry.
Fortunately, Heart2Heart paired Vinal with a volunteer, Charlie Mae, to provide companionship and relief care. Her weekly visits — and sometimes more often — allow Tammy more time for other parts of her busy life.
“She’s such a big help,” Tammy said. “She is a genuine, caring person.”
A beautiful friendship
At least three times a week, Tammy drives from Coral Springs to visit her father at his Coconut Creek condo. She ensures he has groceries, medications and all his meals delivered. She takes him to his doctor’s appointments and social engagements.
Still, as a church leader, Vinal is used to having people constantly around him. It’s reassuring to Tammy that Charlie has developed a special friendship with her father over the last few years.
“She does everything from spending time with him to reading the Bible to him because his eyesight isn’t what it used to be,” Tammy said. “If it’s his or her birthday, they go out to eat — even if it’s not on the actual day.”
Charlie and Tammy coordinate so they visit on different days.
“The dependability of knowing she’ll be there and with no expectation — other than quality time with an elder in the community — is a beautiful thing,” Tammy said.
Charlie also is a listening ear for any issues that Vinal might not be comfortable explaining to his daughter.
“Charlie can offer another insight or perspective,” Tammy said. “It’s great for him to know he has another trusted friend to talk to.”
A tough balance
Tammy can’t remember what life was like before she was her father’s caregiver. Over five years, she slowly took over more and more responsibility.
“It’s a tough balance,” Tammy said. “I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that.”
She’s encouraged that Vinal doesn’t let anything get in the way of being an active part of his grandsons’ lives. That includes watching her youngest son play soccer and lacrosse a few times each season, despite a long walk to get to the field.
“A soccer field isn’t always the most convenient place to be, but he’s still determined to be there. That’s precious, and we don’t take that for granted at all,” Tammy said. “He just is really proud that he gets to be there and cheer my son on.”
Vinal is given respect from the other players and parents because many know his investment over the years as a warrior for the kingdom.
“It gives him strength and joy to really enjoy the time we have together,” Tammy said. “As full as our lives are, it is a challenge to watch him not be the person he was.”
She got emotional as she reflected.
“We relish the moments we have, and thank God for them,” she said. “And we also await when my dad can be reunited with my heavenly mother and be whole again.”