I can remember one day whilst on holidays in Donegal as a child, passing a church. A coffin was wheeled out, and the only people following it, were the priest and the lady who looks after the church.
No relatives, no friends.
I was a teenager at the time,
but I can remember being so struck,
by the lack of mourners.
I come from a big family,
and the only funerals I had attended,
had involved large numbers,
both in the house for the wake,
and in the church.
As I watched the lonely procession,
walk across the road and into the graveyard,
“How can you live a lifetime and not gather a family or friends?
My mum said that this was an elderly man who had not married or had children. I wondered if years ago, as a younger man had he had friends? Had old age robbed him of them. Perhaps he’d become immobile and lost contact with people?
Remembering that lonely funeral recently I spoke to my mother of my Grandfather. He had left Donegal to come and live with us after my Grandmother had died. I had always thought that this was great for him. We were his family and he would not have been so lonely.
However, my mum pointed out to me that when Granda came to live with us it meant he had to say good bye to all his friends and leave behind his home and life of eighty years. It was something he found very hard to do. Listening to her I could not even imagine what he must have felt as he drove away for the last time to his new life.
At least my grandfather was leaving to live in a busy house and would spend the rest of his days surrounded by family old and young. Unlike some of the elderly I met while nursing.
I remember one elderly woman in particular. As part of my training I worked in the community for a short time. The area I was assigned to was inner city Dublin. One of our daily visits was to an elderly lady who lived alone in the top floor of ‘the flats.’
I never got to see her.
Each day we would climb the six flights of stairs to her flat. Once there we would check to ensure the groceries which were left outside her door earlier in the day were gone. We would then bang on her door for quite some time. Eventually we’d hear footsteps inside.
‘Mrs X, it’s the public health nurse here. Are you okay?’
A rather loud woman’s voice would shout back,
Job done, she was still alive! I can’t imagine many came to her funeral.
Today, as I look around at my own friends I am thankful for each one of them.
Long may I be well enough to enjoy their company.
I wonder with modern technology will our generation be less isolated as we get old? After all even if we have less “real” friends, we can still have our friends in our computers.
So, I’m wondering in a few years can I trust some of you to check in on me? I do hope my language is a little less colourful than my Dublin lady… but I can’t feckin promise!
I have been writing this blog for almost five years now. That is a lot of posts. So I’ve decided once in a while to share once more a post only a handful of people read years ago. I hope you enjoyed today’s choice.