I have one grandparent still living, my maternal grandmother. Her husband died when I was a sophomore in high school and since his death, she has lived alone.
She'll be 92 in December. And she still lives on her own. Wow.
I have occasion to worry about her. She's had some serious health problems, especially in the last 6-8 years, mainly with bleeding ulcers. She had a scare yesterday. My mom took her to the doctor and she doing fairly well after the medication they put her on. My parents will be in Branson for the rest of the week, so I called my grandmother tonight to check on her.
"Well, hi." She said. "What are you up to?"
"Just calling to make sure you have my work and cell numbers in case you need me this week."
My aunt was there helping her pick the last of the sour gherkins she had on the vines trailing up her chain link fence. She sounded a little out of breath, but excited. "Do you want to come over for dinner? I've got a peach pie in the oven." Well, that was a no-brainer, so I made the short 20-mile trip over to the small town of Axtell to see them, and have homemade vegetable soup and homemade peach pie.
I was there for a couple of hours, and by 9pm I realized something amazing. My grandmother has a huge community of people who love her and look out for her.
The phone rang four times while I was there - all neighbors calling to check on her. I heard her say over and over again "I feel much better today." I couldn't help but remember an old scene from Grey's Anatomy, where the main character had an elderly patient who was DNR, and she watched the woman die surrounded by friends. She then cried at the thought her own mother would die alone.
I thought most of my grandmother's neighbors and friends died. She is always attending funerals, and she rarely mentions these people in her life. But there they were - I witnessed it all tonight. Just a handful of people who called to make sure she was safe and well.
"...everything in this world tries to pull us away from community, pushes up to choose ourselves over others, to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together. The simple way is not the easy way." -Shane Claiborne Irresistible Revolution
Why has our culture made it so hard to exist in community together?
It's probably a mixture of fear and distrust for those around us. But will we learn to live well without each other? Or, will we learn that it is much better to live caring for others above yourself?
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it up carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable... The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers... of love is hell." - C.S. Lewis