Someone mentioned today, how difficult it is to be left behind when the person you loved and cared for is gone- “the sound of an empty house”. I thought back to a time when I was a newly single mom, a number of years ago, remembering a conversation with my oldest son sitting on the stairs with me. He was the first one to leave the nest, and it was the summer before his first year of college. We were having one of those rare moments that should be treasured with a teenage boy, just like two friends hanging out together.
He looked at me, and asked “Mom, are you lonely?” I responded, “Not so much lonely, but sometimes I feel alone”. (Sounds like picking at semantics, but it’s actually very different to be lonely, and feel isolated and unloved, versus alone; the definition of lonely being desolate, not frequented by human beings, destitute of sympathetic companionship.) So many people loved me and I knew this, it was something I often suffered guilt over, since I wasn’t forgotten and actually rarely had “alone time”- how could I possibly feel separate or alone? But I felt it; alone sometimes at work; alone running my kids to their many activities; alone in the midst of the grocery store pushing my cart down the aisle and trying to avoid people’s gaze; alone in my loss. I felt marked. I felt different. I felt like all humanity, when a loss visits us in this life.
There were occasional weekends, when the kids were invited to friends’ houses for sleepovers, and I actually was alone. I remember feeling the quiet like a heavy blanket over me, and sometimes I would wander past their bedrooms and feel a physical pang, knowing someday they wouldn’t live in this house.
I know the loss of a loved one. My life is busy, and there are many wonderful people that fill my thoughts and days. But I still wish sometimes I could just pick up the phone and call my mom, who has been dead for eight years now. Once in a while I am reminded of what it is like to be alone; to find yourself, in the midst of a busy life, listening to the sounds of an empty house.
What does it sound like, an empty house? I think of the faint creaks, the hum of the appliances, the occasional beep of an electronic sound and it all reverberates on empty walls and empty halls. There is sometimes that occasional twinge of fear, when something bumps against an outside door, or the wind blows the lid off the trash can.
Our needs and fears are not as unique as we think. Our experience is unique; I feel the loss of my mother in a unique way. I share with others who have lost someone dear in their life; I know those moments of overwhelming sadness, the zinger pain that comes out of nowhere, and surprises with its depth of anguish, the sense of emptiness, aloneness.
I think of the comfort that we are able to extend to each other, as humans sharing the experience of grief; many different losses but a companionship in mourning….. And I remember my closest friend and sisters listening to many one-sided conversations as I processed my own grief…..sharing, listening, the simple comfort of a human hug.
The sound of an empty house…..lessened if we are able to welcome others in.