Everybody gone, gone, gone!

I sat on the verandah this cool and calm Saturday morning with my mother reminiscing and recalling the names of persons who lived in my childhood neighbourhood. My mother‘s elephant-like memory afforded her the opportunity to retrace the well-worn tracks of time and identify a litany of persons who have trodden those paths, some of whom I remembered, many I didn’t. 

As she recalled the names of persons, there was a story for each of them – marriage, children, divorce, migration, work, and present circumstances. For those I could remember, my mind was like a movie screen of time past – the colour of the houses, the pothole-riddled streets, the family dramas, the sad and happy stories, playing in the streets, family punishments, quarrels, fights, friendships, and holiday celebrations.

The common factor in my mother’s stories was death.  Most of the names she listed were of persons who had died. She recounted how they died, from what they died, sometimes the drama surrounding their death, and the persons they left behind. At the end of the conversation, my mother gentle uttered, “Everybody gone, gone, gone!”  Understandably, at 84 years old, most persons of her generation would be “gone, gone, gone.”

Two days prior, I had a conversation with two other elderly persons, one who was 94 and the other 86 years old. Again, the content of the conversation was death and the dying of friends and family members of their generation. I asked both how they felt about it. One uttered, “Lonely.” And the other agreed. Notwithstanding the reality that both had very good family support systems, they still felt “lonely”.

Pope Francis was wise when he instituted Grandparents and Elderly Day in the liturgical calendar. In addition to valuing the wisdom of the elderly and inviting us to tap into thier wisdom, he wished for the younger generation to feel the loneliness of the elderly and to accompany them in their loneliness.

One day, my generation, your generation, will either be “gone, gone, gone” or alive with our own loneliness. We need to prepare for it by becoming present and accompany the older generation in their loneliness.

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