Charlie was a man who looked like he was in his 70s or 80s and was very ill. He had been passed from pillar to post in primary care and now found himself in the same CCU as my dad. What became apparent from spending time in the CCU was that Charlie had enjoyed no visitors. I thought that maybe I had just missed his visitors but my dad clarified that he had indeed had no visitors. This got me thinking. Surely he must matter to someone. Surely someone must know he was there. Someone must care about him.
He's old... maybe he was married, maybe he wasn't. Was his wife dead? Was she immobile and unable to visit him.
Did he have children? Why were they not visiting him? Had they had a falling out?
Is it possible to be alone in this world? Had all his friends died? Did he have no friends?
What would being alone in this world feel like?
Personally I cannot imagine being alone. I get so much support from my family and friends and I know that in a crisis I will always have friends I can count on. Having, what felt like, my support network yanked away from me yesterday left me feeling very vulnerable and helpless; I wasn't even in a crisis! Every day people are admitted to hospital who are in the situation of having no-one that will visit them. We have sleepwalked into a society that seems to have lost all sense of community. I'm 37 years old.. Was community more social years ago? Could an old person who lived alone and whose children (if any) had moved away be admitted to hospital and have no-one that cares enough about them to visit them during potentially one of the scariest moments of their life; whilst they are looking at their death and possibly re-living all of their life, replaying past glories, past mistakes, love's lost and love's won...
Everyone should matter.....
Does everyone matter? How much do we know about our neighbours that live alone and get no visitors? What should we do about this?
Crikey - this business with my dad has got me all existential and ponderous - Maybe it will make me less cynical!
Friends and family are vitally important. Maintaining friendships with both is critical.
My heart was breaking for Charlie - I feel so guilty for not sitting with him and spending time with him, talking to him - finding out about his life, his legacy.. Who is this man? Was he a war hero? What did he do for a living? For all I know, he could have been an international spy. All the time though, all I could think was "it is not the done thing, you don't know this man, what if he tells you to get lost?" Why has society made it so difficult to talk to people? We seem to be being ushered into a state where we can go through a whole life without ever having to interact with each other:
- Drive through pay-at-the-pump fuel
- Tesco online
- Internet banking
- Working from home
We can easily live without having to ever really interact with anyone and then we could easily collapse in our home and, if we have no friends or family no-one would know!
Can society ever get back to that time when, apparently, we used to leave our doors open and we all knew everyone on our street? Has privacy gone so far that we are now afraid to make friends with strangers in no other context than they 'live on our street'...