Yesterday, Douglas received and email from one of his brothers, informing him of the passing of the brother’s ex-wife. He told him that she had been dead for two weeks before she was found! Her neighbors had not seen her in a couple of weeks and finally called the authorities for a wellness check.
When I heard, it shocked me to think that someone could die and nobody know it for two long weeks! I thought, “What a shame that anyone could be that isolated from others that no one even knows that they are dead!” It appears that the woman was estranged from her child and even her neighbors.
It’s hard to articulate that someone could have so few contacts on a regular basis that there was no one to even check on her after a day or two of not having heard from her. It made me think about the numbers of people in similar situations, alone and with no one to check on them regularly.
It doesn’t matter what type of person she might have been, for no one deserves to die alone, forgotten, and basically discarded. I know that some people want to be left alone. They may have been hurt by others, or they may have caused so much pain, refused to be penitent about the hurt caused, and other people simply decided not to deal with them any more.
Or it may be a sign of the culture today. We have lived in my home for nearly four years, with the same neighbors to the right of us. We wave at them when we see them outside, but I could not tell you their names, to win a fortune.
We live on a cul de sac, with only ten houses, and I only know the names of two of the people, and that is because I put their garbage out when Douglas works late. I text them, and they place their bags on their porch for me to load their garbage can and roll it to the street. We don’t even speak face-to-face for this gesture. Both the ladies have physical problems that preclude doing the garbage for themselves.
So, I guess if one or both of them were ill, I wouldn’t know, unless they did not return the text. I would probably think that they had no garbage for the week, or just did not need our help. I wouldn’t want to appear pushy or bossy. Yet, in light of what happened to the woman dying alone like that, maybe I should call and just be sure all is good.
It may be a phenomenon in America only, for when we travel, I marvel at the camaraderie between neighbors. They practically drench each other in smiles and asking about their health and families. I could not imagine this happening in Portugal or Spain, but I could be wrong!
Indeed, for those of us raised before the 1980s, maybe 1990s, we knew our neighbors for miles on end, and they knew who your parents were, which constrained our behaviors. This could not have happened then, unless the person was a real recluse or had no children.
The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors in the same way that we love ourselves. Admittedly, it is difficult if people don’t want to know you or feel safer not being known.
But, I hope that the day will return when, even if we don’t become best pals, neighbors will tend to get to know each other enough that when trouble comes, there is someone to call for help. No one should be dead for two weeks and nobody knows. To me, that’s a real shame.