A couple of weeks ago, my mother fell at her home and could not get up. She is 84 years old and lives alone now. A neighbor came to her aide, after several hours.
She is very much attached to staying at her home, in a small town in Maryland, To this end, her focus, for the last 10 years, has been to create community around her, something that is as surprising to her children as it has been spectacularly successful.
My family has never been known for its, uh, social abilities. We all tend to be somewhat reclusive, though this is due more to discomfort than to active avoidance of others. We have never been a cozy, happy group, and have never truly felt that we truly belonged anywhere, as far as I know. We have all been individually plagued with extreme social anxiety.
So my mother came up with an amazing ability to create a nurturing community about her, just as she came into the need for it. I am sure that this was partly a conscious effort on her part, but this does not diminish my admiration for her achievement.
She has neighbors who mow her lawn, take out her trash, and drive her to appointments when she cannot drive herself. There are members of her church who show up with food or offer to weed her prized rose garden. Her former singing group (Sweet Adelines) visit every week and another family includes her in all major holidays as part of their family.
In short, she has established herself as a part of people's lives, just by being there. I believe that this is partly because she supplies people with a reminder of their own mortality, a living example of gentle decline. She awakens people's compassion and love, giving people a chance, all too rare in modern life, to act from their better nature.
It is beautiful and heartbreaking. I love her very much.