If I were to pick up the phone right now and ask my mother, “How are you doing?” she’d say brightly, “I’m fine. Good! I can’t complain!”
It makes it so much easier to her voice – animated and happy to have heard from me. I have to confess, sometimes that’s enough for me. The guilt retreats a little, the fact I haven’t called in for a few days loses its urgency.
But then I saw this film. It’s called Junk Mail and shows the small life of a 98-year-old woman who is still living independently like my mum, who will one day be the same age as Mary in the film.
Mary loves the senior centre she attends every day. When she is dropped back home after a morning there, she wishes the day and night away so she can get back there.
But what this film does is show the hours in between. The hours Mary spends in her home, waiting for the next morning to come.
And do you know what she does to fill those hours? She collects the junk mail that comes through her door, gathers in on her lap, then sits on the couch ripping the junk mail to shreds. Then she puts it in the bin.
Mary can’t see; she can’t hear. “But I have to do something!” she says. “What else am I going to do?”
The small, frail woman in the video could be my own mother in a decade or so. She is fiercely independent and truly grateful for what she has in life, just like my mum. I won’t spoil the short film for you, but Mary’s response to the small gesture of kindness she receives is exactly how I would imagine my mother responding if she were in the same situation.
Not that she will be. Seeing this image of a brave, strong woman ripping up junk mail in her lounge to keep herself from going mad with loneliness has galvanised me into action. There will never be a time I’m “too busy” for my mum. I will never rush to get off the phone and onto the next thing on my to do list. And I will visit her whenever possible – and keeping an eye out for stacks of junk mail.
Watch the short film here then phone your parent, friend or anyone else you know who could do with a visit from someone who loves them.
Do you know someone who could do with more human interaction? Are you feeling lonely? Let’s reach out to those who need us and remember, we all hope to be an active 98-year-old one day.