A LONELY Irish pensioner whose expertise of long-term isolation touched hearts across the world practically a decade in the past has died throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2013 James Gray grew to become a worldwide inspiration after being featured in The Irish Post, however his story was additionally a stunning instance of the loneliness and isolation dealing with so many aged individuals residing amongst the Irish neighborhood in Britain.
Having confronted ten Christmases alone in his flat in Sutton, south London, Mr Gray determined to take out an advert in The Irish Post in December 2013 on the lookout for fellow pensioners to share Christmas Dinner with.
He solely obtained one reply to that advert, from a girl who later made different plans for Christmas Day.
It was one other blow for the then 85-year-old Cork-man, who had lived a lifetime of solitude in London for greater than ten years.
Mr Gray had at all times been lively whereas working as a butler – a profession which noticed him serving a bunch of great world figures, together with US President Ronald Reagan – however had turn into extraordinarily remoted since his retirement at the age of 73.
With no mates or residing members of the family, he instructed The Irish Post that the solely individuals he noticed have been his carers and a cleaner.
But once we shared Mr Gray’s story with the world he rapidly grew to become inundated with affords of companionship.
What adopted was a wave of goodwill as individuals from as distant as Australia, Chile, Japan and the US felt compelled to allay his loneliness, sending greater than 1,000 playing cards and items to Mr Gray in the house of simply two weeks.
And shortly after receiving his first playing cards in years, he tucked into Christmas dinner with two Irish Post readers who spent the day with him at a resort near his dwelling.
Christmas and birthday playing cards continued to flood in for the pensioner for numerous years.
Mr Gray additionally remained in touch with a few of the individuals who had despatched playing cards, letters and items in the submit.
It was by way of a type of contacts that The Irish Post learnt this week that Mr Gray handed away in a care dwelling in Mitcham on January 15, 2021, aged 92.
The unhappy information got here from Dublin-based lawyer Kate Conneely.
The 32-year-old, who hails from Inverin, in Connemara, Co. Galway, made a connection with the pensioner after studying his story in The Irish Post.
She was amongst tons of of people that despatched him a Christmas card in 2013 however was certainly one of solely a handful he selected to answer to the following yr.
After that Ms Conneely started calling Mr Gray as soon as a month.
“I was ringing to give him company,” she instructed The Irish Post this week.
“I would send him postcards from places, I would call him, sometimes I would order shopping for him, and have it delivered,” she provides.
During that point Mr Gray’s well being deteriorated considerably Ms Conneely confirms.
He grew to become housebound in recent times, because of being unable to maneuver unaided, and was additionally recognized with dementia in 2019.
As a end result, Mr Gray spent a while in hospital, and people have been the events when Ms Conneely discovered no reply when she referred to as his dwelling.
The final time she spoke to Mr Gray – who refused to make use of a cell phone – was in November 2020.
When she tried to name him the following month, she discovered she was unable to get by way of.
“There were times over the years when I would call and James would not be there,” she confirms.
“He was housebound over the final yr and a half, so these instances have been as a result of he had been admitted to hospital.
“But he always came home, he was adamant he did not want to be in a nursing home, despite saying he still felt isolated and lonely at home.”
She added: “But I couldn’t get by way of in any respect any time that I referred to as final December.
“I thought maybe he was in hospital for a long time.”
The unhappy reality of Mr Gray’s scenario was solely revealed to Ms Conneely final month.
“I have since found out what happened from a nurse who once visited James and kept in touch, she would visit him now and again to help him,” she explains.
“She let me know that he died in a nursing home on January 15, 2021.”
Despite the unhappy information coming as a blow to Ms Conneely, she admits she is glad he finally made it right into a care dwelling.
“I was kind of glad to hear that, because what scared me most was the idea that he would die alone in his flat and noone would know,” she defined.
“Although he hated nursing homes, I think it was better for him to be in there, because he couldn’t move or walk or anything.”
Now the lawyer hopes James’ story will function reminder of the obligation we owe the older members of our neighborhood.
“My immediate thought when I heard James had died was regret, had I done enough?” Ms Conneely admits.
“The approach life is shifting on now’s every part is on-line; I used to be very aware of that once I was speaking with James.
“I’d call and ask is he wanted to know anything, ask could I Google something for him,” she provides.
“If you’re a sure age and don’t have youngsters or grandchildren to assist with issues like that, it’s like life strikes on with out you.
“We need to look at how we support our older people.”