My blog posts of late have indicated the fullness and vitality of loving life. And I really do believe I am most blessed by God by having a wonderful and supportive life-mate in my partner, a caring and humongous family, and terrific friends — some of whom I have known since I was three years old. I’m even more blessed by my additional “brothers” in my cherished “AZ”, Clay, and UTBR. Blessings continue with my relationship with a huge band of seniors whom I have come to adore and spend a lot of time with. However, that’s what I’m blogging about today — my senior pals, most of whom live lonely lives ’cause their kids forget about them.
Mabel called at 4am the other day. She’s one of my senior friends who like many others, lives alone. She has two daughters who live in distant states. From time to time, I do some household repairs for her, have her join my aunt and me when we do our weekly grocery shopping, and sometimes just sit and listen. She’s among a close group who serve, in a way, as another adopted “family.”
Whenever the phone rings at 4am, it is never good news. Mabel sounded very concerned — she said that she heard a loud “ka-thump” in the apartment above her. She thought that her upstairs neighbor fell. She tried calling him and then knocked on his door, but there was no answer. She was afraid that she was overreacting, and didn’t want to call the security station at her retirement community because she had been admonished once for “bothering them.” (I don’t know the full story; nonetheless, she is reluctant to call them.)
Mabel has a key to her neighbor’s condo, but didn’t want to go in alone. She was afraid. She called me. I got up, got dressed, told my partner what was going on. He sighed and asked me to send him an email at work later to let him know what happened.
A few minutes later, I had arrived at Mabel’s apartment. She and I knocked, then opened her neighbor’s door. We found him in his bedroom. He had collapsed. He wasn’t breathing and there was no heartbeat. I called 9-1-1 and the community’s security station. While in the kitchen by the phone, I saw a “DNR” (do not resuscitate) order posted on the refrigerator. Responders were there in a flash, and I pointed out the DNR order. They understood, and just turned it over to the cops. Mabel’s neighbor died. Alone.
The cops who came were outstanding in their calmness, professionalism, and compassion. They explained what happens when someone dies alone. They conducted an investigation, but knew that nothing sinister happened. Mabel’s 90-year-old neighbor who had been living alone for over a decade had a cardiac arrest. Mabel cried, held my hand, and just wanted to talk. She was frightened. I just sat with her for several hours until the coroner arrived and the cops said we could go.
The man’s daughter who lives about 50 miles away arrived, breathless. “I talked to him last week on the phone,” she said tearfully. That wasn’t the time to criticize anyone. A week is a long, long time when you’re alone.
My partner wonders why I call about 15 people every day when I get home from work. They have no one else to check on them. No one else to call. They’re alone. It’s so sad. Nobody should be alone in the world, nobody.
If you have family or friends who live alone, give ’em a call, if nothing other than to say that you’re thinking of them. Give them an ear to share a story, a thought, a memory, an idea. Send them a card on their birthday and at other times too — I go “card crazy” sometimes by sending cards for no reason at all, other than to say, “you’re important; you’re thought of today.” (I really ought to by stock in Hallmark.)
Being alone doesn’t mean that one has to be lonely. Who knows, when you call someone living alone, you might learn something! I sure do. I learn a lot about life, about love, and about things that enrichen my spirit, my knowledge, and myself. I am a much better man for the richness of the souls whose lives are intertwined with mine.
Life is short: show those you love that you love them.