Loneliness: From turkeys to people, it’s heartbreaking

We live in north Colorado Springs. Only a few decades ago, it was in the country. Now, the area is burgeoning with mini-malls, restaurants, new subdivisions and apartment complexes, movie theaters and more.

Despite the hustle and bustle, Elizabeth and I live on a farm at times with the deer, bobcats and, of course, the squirrels, rabbits, hawks, coyote and even an owl. Don’t forget the wild turkeys. They all apparently think they’re in the wild. They’ll take up residence in the backyard at times, just a few feet from our back door. They lie down and keep watch, apparently sensing they are in a safe zone. They are.

For the past few days, however, there has been a heartbreaking development.

Almost daily this week — and multiple times each day actually — one of the wild turkeys has been wandering aimlessly back and forth through the back yard. It’s obvious she’s looking for something or someone. You know the old saying: Turkeys of a feather flock together.

This particular turkey, however, is alone. All alone. It brought my wife to tears yesterday because not only does the turkey seem to be lost from its family and flock, this turkey represented something else to her: loneliness. “It’s so sad,” she said.

As we watched the turkey wander back this way yet one more time, names and faces began to flash before our minds. Lonely people. That turkey represented them and brought them to our attention.

We have all been lonely at one time or another. We go through those patches in our lives where no one calls, no one writes and seemingly no one is thinking about us. But we get through those seasons generally.

Yet when the stretches of loneliness lengthen, the isolation can turn to despair and hopelessness. When that happens, it’s hard to get out. Sure, people may tell you “I’m okay”, or they may smile and say “I’m happy”, but behind the smile, they are hurting and wounded. Their heart is crying out, they want you to dig deep, but pride, dignity or fear of rejection will keep it neatly tucked inside.

It was clear the separated turkey was looking for something, craning its neck in this direction, then that, as if it was hoping to stumble onto something familiar.

But the story doesn’t end with the lost momma turkey.

My dad passed away in July 2017. Before that, he had been in a nursing home and before that the hospital for several months. In other words, he had not been home since late 2015. As you can imagine, my mom became lonely, especially after he died, as you can see from one of her Facebook posts above.

I would call her regularly, and she would do most of the talking, filling me in on everything that was going on in her life, often repeating herself just to extend the conversation. It dawned on me during one of those calls: She is lonely. She has no one else to tell these fascinating stories to. You see, my mom and dad always would sit in their recliners and talk over morning coffee, especially in the last 20 years after retirement. Just a couple of months before she died last August, she reminisced in another Facebook post about missing those “coffee conversations with Roy”. It was apparent not only that she missed him, but that she was struggling with life alone and loneliness for the first time ever.

Alone is one thing. Lonely is yet another altogether.

Friends, it’s more than just your parents who are lonely today. It’s your neighbor, your brother or sister, your close friend. They’ll tell you “I’m okay”, but perhaps you should dig a little deeper. Even if they are “okay”, a kind word, card, text, IM or visit can be life-changing for them and get them through a hard day or season.

Think about it. It won’t take long for someone’s name or picture to pop up in your mind today. Don’t let the day go by without honoring that thought or image. Like the old commercial says, reach out and touch someone.

And, if you find yourself hesitating for some reason, just envision that turkey wandering aimlessly back and forth anxiously through my backyard.

And, be sure to call mom too if you can. After all, it’s Mother’s Day.

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