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The heartbreaking reason this 98-year-old spends weekends shredding mail.

You should know Mary's story.

Sometimes you come across someone's story and it touches you in a way you'll never forget.

Mary's story, captured in a short film called "Junk Mail," is one of those stories.


Photo courtesy of Charles Frank. Used with permission.

Mary is 98 years old. She has no children. And her husband died a few years ago.

She and her husband lived in the same house together — the one she still lives in today — for about four decades.

"Where could I go?" she responds rhetorically when asked if she enjoys living there. “I can't see. I can't hear. I can't live with my nieces. They all have their own family."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

Many of us can't wait for the weekend. But for Mary, Saturday and Sunday mean 48 hours of loneliness.

On weekends, she ends up resorting to a tedious, inconsequential task, just to help pass the time.

"You know what I do? Don't laugh," she explains."I get junk mail. I strip it. And after I strip it, I cut it up in small [pieces], put it in a bag, put it out for garbage. I have to do something. Otherwise, I'll go nuts."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

That heartbreaking quote inspired the name for "Junk Mail."

Created by production company Voyager, "Junk Mail" follows Mary on her day-to-day routine in Easton, Pennsylvania, capturing the difficulty of growing old and lonely.

It's a difficulty plenty of people know all too well.

A study by the University of California, San Francisco conducted between 2002 and 2008 found that 43% of people over 60 years old reported feeling lonely. What's more, those who experienced loneliness also experienced more significant declines in health over the years, as The New York Times noted.

So while Mary's story might be tough to hear, her struggle to stay connected to the world is not as rare as we might think.

While Mary's weekends are spent shredding junk mail, her weekdays are filled with a bright spot: a local senior center.

During the week, Mary visits Easton Lifestyle Campus for seniors, where she dines, plays games, and chats among friends. She "can't wait 'til morning comes, so [she] can go."

Debbie Mertz, director of the center, said folks at the center may feel increasingly excluded because of their age.

"Their children are now having grandchildren," she explained in the film. "So they kind of get pushed off to the side. They're not as needed, they can't do as much, so they come here."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

But we shouldn't feel sorry for Mary. While her story tugs at the heartstrings, she's certainly loved by many.

"She encapsulated the spirit and energy and the ideology behind what [the senior center] represented," Charles Frank, the film's 21-year-old director, told Upworthy.

"She absolutely is one of the most beloved people there. She's the center of everyone's attention."

Frank — who said he was inspired by the senior center while visiting during filming for a different project — now considers Mary a "surrogate grandmother." And it's no wonder, either — her resilience and positive attitude are evident throughout his work.

"God is good to me," she said. "Who is 98 years old and still walking on their feet? I am. ... I am."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

You can view "Junk Mail" below. It's certainly worth the watch.

But be warned: You should have tissues on hand.

And to anyone who may beinspired to reach out to Mary,Frank asked that viewers send Voyager a direct message through their Facebook page. He will follow up with directions on how you can send Mary a hello.

Voyager is planning on giving Mary the messages of support during a screening of the film sometime during November.

Check out "Junk Mail" below:

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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