On Being Lonely
Who, in this world, has never been lonely?
Loneliness is not merely a mood - an emotion of the soul. It is an expression of one’s entire being, of one’s inborn knowledge that we are born “alienated” from our Father in Heaven, and we are “homesick. . .”
With the expression of loneliness rooted in our hearts, comes the knowledge that no one else really understands our innermost thoughts or who we really are. So we try frantically to find a person - any person - who will understand us completely. But we never do. We are quite alone within ourselves.
I did not, in my first few years of life, realize that one could even BE lonely! I was a happy child, with my Daddy always there as the father role and my mother never leaving us two girls for even a day. It was a safe, secure feeling and not it my wildest dreams would I have ever suspected that it could not last forever.
The very first time I met loneliness face to face was the loss of a little friend. Death had never knocked at my door and when it did, I was devastated. I had loved my friend, though I was jealous of her too, for she had often played with my dolls when I was in school (first grade).
Her name was “Jackie” and I know now that she was a special angel whom God permitted us to know for just a little while. She was breathtakingly beautiful and quite unaware of it. Her tiny face was framed by honey golden hair that hung in wisps around her soft features. Her eyes were tinged with an other world softness. They were so large and so
brown that they seemed to envelope you with love. She had nothing of her
own. Her mother and father fought continually and he often found insane reasons to spank her. But Jackie accepted her station in life with an inner calmness and humility that was akin to sainthood.
She loved pretty things, like any other youngster, and when my folks bought me beautiful dresses or trinkets she would stand against the fence that separated our yards and examine my gifts with as much excitement as though they were her own. Even though her dad was quite well off she had only two changes of clothes. She never seemed to notice; hers was a life of love and grace.
Then suddenly she was gone. For some time there had been a peculiar hoarseness in her voice but no one attributed it to anything but a cold. When she became weak, however, her mother took her to our town physician who immediately admitted her to the hospital for tests.
How very lonely my own world became! It was as though the sunshine had hidden itself behind a grey blanket of sky. My paper dolls and trinkets remained untouched and often I desperately wished that I would come home and find them obviously tampered with and pushed back under the bed where Jackie would find them.
When her days of sickness lengthened into weeks I knew instinctively that I would never have my friend at home again. Mother would hide her tears, but I knew that Jackie’s condition was worsening.
Then one day my folks came back from the hospital and Mother collapsed in a chair and the tears came. I wondered what had happened and Mother told me. In her entire little space of time here Jackie had never owned a night gown. She had always been made to sleep in her slip. On this day her mother (expecting the child’s life was nearing its end) had gone downtown and bought her the prettiest little nightgown that she could find. It was all lace and flowers, befitting a princess.
When my mother had entered the hospital room Jackie’s pale face was aglow with excitement. By now she could only Whisper, but she beckoned to mother to lean down beside her bed.
Holding her beautiful little gown out on either side she whispered, “Oh, Mrs. Williams, isn’t this pretty! See how pretty it is, with all the flowers and lace. . .”
It was the last thing she ever said to my Mom. And when we attended her funeral, I walked to her casket and there she was, in her lovely nightgown exactly as though she had just fallen asleep. I reached out to touch her, but Mama led me away.
Now loneliness and I were acquainted. It was the beginning. I suffered terrible moments of anguish for having lost my friend. I remembered all the things I might have done to make her life a happy one, and didn’t. But I remembered, too, that she knew that I loved her and then as the months wore on, I accepted her departure as part of life’s pattern. It was an acknowledgement that all the dear things that made me feel safe would leave me as I grew into adulthood.
There were other friends who came into my life and left again, weaving themselves into the fabric that makes up one’s total existence. I thank God for each of them, the good and the bad.
I moved to the great city of Chicago and it was a tremendous delight to walk across “the world’s busiest street corner.” The crowds of humanity of State and Madison Avenue could all but crush you. And no one knew me! Have we not all felt this strange aloneness in crowds?
After living in this huge metropolis for some time, I once again found myself in southern Arkansas where my folks owned a small home in the country. My very best friend in the whole world was there, too - “Obed!” I had known and loved him since I was a difficult thirteen year old. He was someone who knew all my faults and yet he still put up with me and accepted me.
He was the one who let me drive his jalopy on the “two rut” oil field roads and didn’t yell at me when I somehow managed to steer the car out of the deep ruts and brush along a pine forest. He was also there with a few dollars to bail me out when Daddy had a streak of bad luck and I needed some clothes to make it through the year.
He happily permitted me to hide his wallet if he imbibed too much on payday (later he made a deal with God about drinking and kept his promise, thus releasing himself from the drudgery of the habit) - and then, when he thought he was broke, he would smile that golden smile when I triumphantly hauled out his paycheck where I had hidden it, and gave it to him intact.
When I went to college he often sent me reminders of his love - scribbled notes which were barely legible because he was always in a hurry to get going. Usually there were a few dollars pressed tightly together and stuffed into the envelope. When I was home weekends and felt depressed (the teens can depress us) he always saw to it that we would go for a hamburger or a movie and it worked. I was cheered by his caring.
I guess I thought he would live forever. Why not? He belonged to me, and I would never let him go. Poor Obed. If he had lived to get married I am sure that his wife might have had some difficulty in understanding my claim to this golden haired giant who was so patient with me.
Suddenly Obed was gone. He had been “drafted” and even then it never occurred to me that he would go off to war. Wars were something I read about in history books. My safe little world would never be invaded by such a monstrous thing.
Maybe Obed had a premonition that he would never come home. I don’t really know. But I do remember how hard it was to say goodbye. He was an integral part of my life, and though the fun times continued, there was a gap - a terrible, gaping gap.
I saw him again, when he came home from boot camp. I was sound asleep one hot, lazy summer morning when I felt a tugging at my chin. Opening my eyes, two bright, sparkling clear blue eyes smiled directly into mine. “OBED!” He was home again just like before.
But it wasn’t just like before. He marched away one day and never came back. I was working in California when I received the wire saying that he had been killed in action. I sat there in the lounge of the office,
stunned, reading and re-reading the stark, impersonal print. I flung down the message and collapsed in tears.
Going home from work that evening frightened me. I was so afraid of the loneliness that would engulf me when I would, I knew, spread out all my memories of Obed and go through them, one by one.
But a strange thing happened. As I unlocked my door, a broad slice of golden sunshine spread itself across the floor. I went immediately to my scrapbook of pictures and things. Obed was there, a part of the whole of my life. There he was, standing proudly by his old car, his tall frame bent to half prop himself on the fender. Again, he was caught by some army pal sleeping on his cot in the training camp in California. He loved cats and made sure that I got a photo of him and the huge black cat in camp. And in another photo he stood proudly as Staff Sergeant of his men with the captured enemy flag in full view. The “barely legible” notes were there, too, often expressing to “come home soon.”
I faced it all: the inevitable departure of those whom we love; the losses; and more, the memories that could and would sustain us. And on that very day so far from all my loved ones I decided to make friends with Loneliness. Why not? It would always be a companion, like it or not. Life is like that. We cannot become a whole person without experiencing the heights and depths of every occasion.
Have I been lonely since that day? Yes, I have; so many times and in so many different ways. But by accepting it and making loneliness my friend, I become immune to its power to depress and pull me down. Life is rich and full, but never without my companion, Loneliness.
If you are afraid to be lonely, it is my hope that by the reading and telling of my experience you, too, might learn to accept it, know that it is a part of life and will never go away; and that you may be freed from despair.
- From the September, 1993 Wingspread
Christmas Eve, 2006
We had a happy and joyful Christmas here on the mountain. We met Christmas Eve for a wonderful ham dinner at Brian and Gail’s house. Everything looked so festive from the red table cloth and china to all the candles and lights. They are both such good hosts and make us feel so welcome.
Walnut joined us, even though he has moved thirty miles away, and of course our Jay was there.
We still have 16 stray dogs to care for. As a Christmas treat they each got a bone from the slaughter house and a teddy bear from the flea market.
We are so thankful for each other. No power but God could have kept us together all these years, with our different personalities and habits. But we have had a common thread that ran through our lives. We wanted our treasure to be in heaven, not here on earth. And it bound us together like nothing else could.
Take this as your Word for the new year: “For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.” Psalms 69:33
Prayer Requests for January, 2007
For Robert Heffernan, Brickeys, Arkansas, that he’ll be able to walk on his own soon.
For Henry Buckaloo, Granite, Oklahoma, who has “Barrett Syndrome;” and for Henry’s Son who is in jail in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.
For Terry McGowan’s parents. Terry is at Rosharon, Texas.
For Leon Wright, Hominy, Oklahoma, for his health, and for his family.
For Willie Clark, Abilene, Texas, that he will be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Mickey Ray Reil at Hinton, Oklahoma, who goes up for parole this month.
For our neighbor Sandra Beckum, for her battle against cancer, and for all our wonderful and kind neighbors across the road.
For Jessie Cummings’ cell partner, Rick, who has a tumor in his bladder. Jessie and Rick are both at McAlester, Oklahoma on death row.
For Clay Huff, Angola, Louisiana, that he can endure the side affects of treatment for his liver.
For Curtis Rogers, Alicia, Arkansas, for healing of cancer.
For Willie Hoffman’s Mother who is having a knee replacement surgery. Willie is at Florence, Arizona.
For James Devers, Hominy, Oklahoma, for his health.
For Michael Jones, Lawton, Oklahoma, and for his entire family who have many health problems.
For Brian Lykins at Dixon, Illinois, that he will get to stay in the drug treatment program.
For Willie Harper, Menard, Illinois, and for his family.
For Randal Smith, Cushing, Oklahoma, that he stays out of trouble.
For Lance Mundell, McAlester, Oklahoma, who has diabetes.
For Sister Ann and the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For the fighting to stop at Cushing, Oklahoma.
For Pastor Scott in Los Angeles, that she’ll be able to continue with the programming on cable television as it is reaching a lot of people.
For Karen Griffin, Clinton, Oklahoma who is battling cancer.
For all of us at Wingspread. Margaret is having cataract surgery the 16th, and Eddie is having some tests this month.
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