By VIVIAN CONRAD
A seventy-year old woman in my church has spent the past few years caring for an invalid aunt, the last living member of her family. With the aunt’s death last week, my friend has suddenly found herself alone. “I appreciate all the cards people sent and the food they brought,” she says, “but what I really need right now is just someone to talk to. The house feels so empty, and I’ve never been so lonely.”
In the bustle of the holiday season, we sometimes forget that some people around us are alone. It’s easy to overlook the 78-year old widower who lost his only son to a heart attack a decade ago. Or another widower whose sole child lives overseas. Or another man whose three stepchildren shut him out of their lives when they reconciled with the biological father after their mother’s death.
The stories vary, but the result is the same – people end up by themselves during a holiday season that focuses on family. For folks like these there will be no presents beneath a tree or stockings at the fireplace. Their Christmas dinners will come from Walmart or Whataburger, and they will spend the day watching TV at home. Alone.
When my children were very young and we were living several states away from extended family members, we adopted an elderly childless couple in our church. The first Christmas we invited them to share with us, they arrived on our doorstep at 5:00am because they didn’t want to miss the kids waking up to their presents from Santa. They spent the whole day with us, and from then on we included them in every birthday and holiday until we moved overseas. To my kids they remained Grandma Nonie and Grandpa Dorsey, and we continued exchanging gifts with them until their deaths years later.