For weeks now, I have been haunted by the specter from an article I read in the Seattle Weekly about Leland Cobain. You may recognize the surname. Leland is Kurt Cobain’s grandfather. He lives, by himself, in a trailer in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula, Montesano. For years Leland wanted nothing much to do with the thousands of fans of his grandson who were desperate for some living connection with Kurt Cobain. Then, Leland’s wife died. Since then, 1997, Leland Cobain has not only been open to answering emails, letters, phone calls, even requests for personal visits, he has been, essentially, the only surviving member of Kurt’s family to be so providing. Hundreds of fans have contacted him over the years. The article notes that Leland has had some bizarre encounters along the way: “The worst was an Australian woman who called from Olympia,…asking if Leland could pick her up. For whatever reason, he obliged her…she turned out to be mentally disturbed, claiming to know who killed his grandson.” (Conor Christofferson, Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2010)
It’s not the seriously ill ones, however, who are so haunting; it’s the lonely ones. One woman, 31-years-old, from rural Pennsylvania, has been writing and visiting Leland for a couple of years now. As the article notes, “…as time went by the letters drifted from the topic of Nirvana and began to resemble something more akin to the correspondence of a girl and her elderly grandpa.” The woman herself says, at one point in the article, “It was more of a fan thing at first, but now that we’ve talked and met, it’s more like he’s a part of my family.”
In one sense, God bless ’em. They are both, clearly, providing a touch of belonging, care, even love, for one another. But I am also saddened by the deep longing that motivated their connection. How desperate so many of us are to be loved and cared for. So desperate that we would drive thousands of miles to spend time, in person, with someone who has shown us the least inkling of intimacy. I once heard a speaker – I would love to give him due credit, but cannot remember who it was – who said, “No matter what your personal belief about homosexuality, one thing that the AIDS epidemic revealed, is that there is a whole community in our midst of people who are, literally, dying for love.” This breaks my heart.
I am tremendously thankful for the family, community and congregation I am a part of who provide me with such a sense of belonging; even more so, I am thankful for a God who is always present in a way that speaks to that soul-wearying loneliness. I must admit, however, that when I hear of stories like those above, I wish that we, as the Body of Christ, were doing even more to reach out to those all around us who are so desperately lonely. May it be so.