DEAR ABBY: I have waited for more than two months to write this letter, and many prayers have been said to Our Father to help me get it right.
I have traveled from the Southwest to the Northeast visiting nursing homes with family members and dear friends, as well as doing volunteer work in them years ago. I have seen people there with cancer, Alzheimer's, emphysema, and some who were just old and sick. The staff in some homes is not very kind to many of the lonely residents.
Please, Abby, urge your readers who want to do something worthwhile to volunteer in nursing homes. I have been there and heard the residents crying out for their family members by name all night. I would go up and down the halls and stop to pat them on the hand or brush their hair.
Please tell families to stay with the loved ones when their days are numbered -- or hire, ask or even beg someone to be by their side. Believe me, they are scared to death, and no medicine I have seen completely eradicates the pain.
My darling aunt, whom I loved dearly, died last Thanksgiving Day of cancer -- so beautiful, but so afraid of being alone. There was no way I could leave. She would say, "Please don't leave ... I'm afraid," and so I stayed.
Abby, I hope your readers will take what I've said to heart. After all, any one of them could be next. -- GRIEVING IN ORANGE, TEXAS
DEAR GRIEVING: Please accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of your beloved aunt. I'm hopeful your eloquent letter will move others to volunteer in nursing homes. Although there are medicines that can alleviate physical pain, the most effective cure for loneliness is caring human contact.