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Cherishing Connections That Relieve Loneliness

Apr 3, 2020

By: Marge McMillen | The Buffalo News

I was born an only child. Those of you with siblings might think that was a lonely life, but you would be wrong. I was an avid reader and cherished those times when I was alone, knowing full well that it was temporary. Soon my mother and father would be home.

I was married at 19 and went from my parents’ home to that of my husband’s and mine. And soon children would fill the house with shouts of joy or dismay, and I would come to relish those alone times of peace and quiet, since I knew they were but brief moments in my noisy, busy life.

The children grew and married, and again it was just my husband and me. Sometimes I reveled in the joy of peaceful quietness, and sometimes I missed the sounds of a child-filled home. But I was never alone – I had my husband to share in this new-again life.

And then, after 63 years of living together, he passed. And now, for the first time, I knew what it was to be truly lonely. It was a whole new world, one in which I felt I was drowning. The onus of every decision rested on my not-so-strong shoulders. Time after time, I would find myself shouting out, “Bob, I need you!” to an empty space. Depression and despair were my constant companions, though my children softened the blow a bit by being there for me whenever I needed them.

And then the phone calls began. The many friends my husband and I had made over the years were there to let me know I could count on them. They begged me to give up this solitary life I was leading and come back into their lives. I accepted their invitation, and soon was spending every day doing some activity with them. The quiet evenings I spent watching TV alone were welcome in this new busy life I was leading.

It has now been over four years since my husband died, and I have adjusted to a life full of friends and fun activities. Surely it would continue like this until I was called to my eternal home. What could change it?

What indeed. A tiny little virus with a long name I had never heard of before. I am now sequestered in my home, as are all of my friends. And that is the definition of loneliness. I miss my bridge games, my fun times playing shuffleboard and indoor horseshoes. I miss – no, I need – those hours of physical exercise I enjoyed doing with large groups of friends, turning what is normally a laboriously dull routine into fun.

But thank God for TV. And even more so, thank God for the telephone. Though I can’t get together with my friends or my daughter who lives near me, I can hear their voices, and relish those phone calls. Although I feel like I’m alone, I’m actually not. Everybody’s in the same boat. The phone rings constantly with friends and relatives saying hi and wondering how I’m doing. My out-of-town son calls me every week, and my daughter who lives a short distance away calls me every day.

This will pass, just as other pandemics have, but we will be left with a memory that will never be erased. My heart goes out to all of those who have lost a loved one to this deadly disease. And so surely, if all I had to suffer were moments of feeling alone, I’ll consider myself lucky.

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