“Grandma Beth died,” my husband informed me. She was the widowed mother of a relative – I had never met her – but one of her cookie recipes was a staple in my kitchen.
“Oh no, what happened?”
“It was all very unexpected. The crazy part is when her daughter found her, they say she had been dead on the kitchen floor for almost four days.”
I blinked. Holy cow. That’s how I’m supposed to go. Statisticlly, someday I’ll be a childless widow who will be found when the neighbors complain about the smell of my decomposing corpse. But this woman? I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. She lived in the same town her entire life, birthed five kids (one of which still lived in town), had a score of grandchildren, friendships, and connections – and yet she died alone and no one knew for days. Not to say having someone there could have prevented her death – but I wish her story didn’t end like that. I thought those things only happened to us introverts without kids type.
Sometimes death comes without warning and you don’t have time to assemble your nearest and dearest around you as you cross over to the other side.
Since getting our living will and last testament notarized earlier this year, I’m much more aware of death – perhaps more so than when I worked in the ER. It’s personal now and not just something that happens to other people or something to worry about someday. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen 65 years from now. I’m prepared either way.
My friend Ruth and I joked that we’d move in together when we were old ladies, á la Golden Girls. With my older husband and her single status, who would care for us and watch out for us in our twilight years? Neither of us have children.
It’s no longer a joke. It’s a jump plan.
When the days come where living alone is too difficult to navigate, we’re becoming the Golden Girls and taking care of each other by living under the same roof. Even if Ruth marries and has kids and my husband lives to see 100, there will be room in my home and life to care for friends. All the Golden Girls had kids, yet they still needed each other in the day to day. The ability to live in community is so important and I don’t think that changes as we age. If anything, it exacerbates the need for connection. The ability to check in and and care for friends is paramount. Who knows what kind of world we’ll be living in when our hair is silver; I’ve already decided how I am going to live, come what may.
A lot of it will probably consist of sitting on the back porch sipping tea, musing over a Bible verse that has been read 1,000 times over the course of our lives, but today it has a new meaning. We’ll celebrate holidays and birthdays – we’ll be that house that is always open to anyone who needs a family.
I’ve already started living into these rhythms. We’ve hosted all sorts of people throughout the years – from a wayward Kiwi making her way back home to a sweet German tourist to a gay pastor to hurricane refugees without shelter – not to mention last year, my house seemed to be the spot for friends to process a divorce; I was happy to share my space for healing.
My guest room is always ready. You never know who the Lord will send your way in a moment’s notice.
Someday, my doors will propped open for friends who are recast as family when our lives wane into the sunset years. Instead of coming over for the afternoon, they may become permanent fixtures as we figure out this growing older thing together.
God willing, no one in my circle will die alone.
I won’t have kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids. I’ll have to rely on my friends to support me as well. We’re all in this together: might as well set out another chair and deal you in when you’re ready.