The idea of living alone has never been unattractive to me, even after I found My True Love.
Although I make a great deal of noise, silence bothers me not a whit.
I remember once leaving after a stay at my Mom's, my youngest brother had gone off to college, a sister who was moving cross country had been there at the beginning of the stay but was gone by the end, and I asked her to get in touch with a friend of mine on the other end of my several day dive home, to tell her that I had set out, (pre-cell phone days, except for very connected people.)
I later found out she had confided to the friend that that night would be the first time she had ever been alone in a house in her entire life, and she hated it.
But I've never been like that.
I look forward to solitude, generally. I have many times in my life gone days at a time without seeing or even speaking to another person.
As I said, I like to be alone.
But this morning at the nursing home for the usual prayer and communion service, I began to understand the terror that it can be.
Now, Himself's mother, and mine, both had real dread of nursing homes, and I know that's not uncommon. The care, at even the best of them that I have seen is, quite simply put, insufficient.
Toward the end of my Mother's life there were three different facilities and two hospitals, all highly rated, tops in the state, regularly laudatory inspections, lovely decor and food, seemingly plenty of staff - none of the stays were without incident.
Incorrect prescriptions, forgetful and callous doctors, revolving door staff that was never brought up to speed, alarms that were acknowledged but then forgotten without problem having been addressed, abrupt and frightening moves from one wing to another in the middle of the night...
And this was with one of us ALWAYS with her, sometimes over the objection of staff.
I cannot image how it would have been had there not been someone there to insist that oxygen be supplied now, to track down someone authorized to dispense controlled substances, to clean her, to make her food palatable and chewable...
Thank God, there had been an incident fairly early in her first hospital stay for which she had phoned us all at three in the morning - I think 4 of us had converged on her new hospital room and promised then that come hell or high water we would never leave her.
Now did we. For several months there was always at last one of her children with her, most nights two so that if she were to awake while one was answering a call of nature or desperately searching for coffee, there would be a face she knew.
I believe her fear was of dying without her family around her, but not from practical considerations like the need for someone insisting on care or running interference or giving protection.
Just to see a face she knew and loved.
This morning it was so painfully, cruelly obvious how alone many of the residents are.
Even those who have family whom I've occasionally met spend most of their days in the company of no one but nurses or aides.
And of course, many have no family who visit.
And finally, some are clearly alone even with family and friends beside them, so turned in upon themselves they are.
There is a tragic, hunted look in so many eyes. (Thank You, God, thank You, I never saw in Mom's.)
They think themselves alone.
And it rightly terrifies them.
We pray with them, talk, offer a shoulder or an arm around theirs, sing to them... but it is so not enough.
O Blessed Joseph, you gave your last breath in the loving embrace of Jesus and Mary. When the seal of death shall close my life, come with Jesus and Mary to aid me. Obtain for me this solace for that hour - to die with their holy arms around me. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I commend my soul, living and dying, into your sacred arms. Amen.