As I woke her up at 1:00 am to tell her that my Opa had just breathed is last in the living room, I saw the anguish on her face. The anguish of knowing what her life now was - lonely.
I helped her out of bed, put her robe on her and we walked into the living room where the hospice nurses, my sister-in-law, my aunt and uncle were standing around him, secretly hoping he'd start breathing again. My Oma calmly walked over to his bed side and sat next to him the chair, holding his hand as other family members that were staying down the street walked in the door. Soon after, she crawled onto the bed with him and started weeping softly. We all knew without a doubt that this was the most horrific day of her life. As we all wept, I sat in the corner and wept for her because I knew that the next week, all of us would go home with spouses, siblings, parents, significant others and she would be left in that house alone - with just 58 years of memories.
But in some strange way, I knew I could feel it deeper than anyone else in the room - I had just gotten out of a relationship that did not end well. I was 30 and so ready to be married, because I too (on a much smaller scale) had my fair share of lonely years. Of the 32 family members there, I was the only one with no one to go home to that night, my single cousins had yet to get to town. So after we finished having a family toast with buttermilk (gross, I know, but it was Opa's favorite), singing worship songs, reading scripture, recounting memories and praying for this beautiful widowed woman, I decided to stay with Oma. We laid there and held hands and wept. Neither of us slept much.
For the next 5 nights, I stayed with Oma - we found a way to peace and at least a bit of companionship, even if we still felt alone. Because of those hard weeks: my night in the hospital with Opa where I prayed with him, sang with him and listened to him cry out for Jesus to take him home while I sobbed on my little hospital couch and my hard nights with Oma, my eyes have been opened to what lonely really means. My compassion for the suffering, the broken and the lonely has been a gift.
Love someone who's lonely this week - bless them with the gift of your presence and a listening ear.