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Our family and friends will be there at the end

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

I had the somewhat unusual task of trying to help a funeral home gather personal information on a person who died but apparently had no close friends or relatives nearby. 

The information was needed for the deceased person’s obituary. Someone who lived hundreds of miles away had contacted the funeral home about funeral arrangements. 

It would be another day before enough information was gathered for an appropriate obituary. 

The person had lived in this area for nearly 30 years, retired a dozen years ago and then opted to stay here in their adopted hometown. The decision to make this area their permanent home did not surprise me because many of us have done that over the years. 

However, I was saddened by the notion that someone could live and work in a small community for so long and then be left alone at death with no one close to make their funeral arrangements. 

Unmarried and without living parents, this person obviously chose a life of solitude in these beautiful hills. 

I’ve often confused solitude with loneliness but they have very different meanings. 

Someone much wiser than me wrote that loneliness expresses the pain of being alone while solitude expresses the glory of being alone. 

Another explanation is that loneliness is the poverty of self but solitude is the richness of self. I realize that some individuals choose to lead lives of solitude and there is no reason to feel sorry for them, even at death. 

This experience caused me to count my own blessings and to commit to being more appreciative of those good souls, namely family and friends, who will be there for me when the end comes. 

As a young boy, I recall a conversation between my grandfather and another elderly man during a neighborhood cookout. 

Grand-Dad looked around at all of the people at the event and told his longtime friend that they were two lucky old men because their wives would not have to hire pallbearers for them. 

They both laughed heartily but it took me a long time to really understand the wisdom in their humor.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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