There was a disturbing item in my local news a while ago. A local senior citizen had passed away, in her home, alone. Now that particular scenario plays out far more often than it should anyway, but what made it more tragic was that her body went undiscovered for about a year and a half.
Think about that. The woman was dead, for over a year, and no one noticed. No one missed her. No one thought to wonder where she was, or if they did, not enough to check on her. Her utilities were, one by one, simply turned off for non-payment. Whatever mail she received disappeared into a mail slot and piled up, flier by flier, junk mail by junk mail, until at last the Post Office cut her off, too.
I say this as someone engaged in a largely solitary profession. Unless you work in-house for someone, as a writer chances are you're alone at your desk most of the time. At the moment I can't claim much of a social life, either, without admitting that most of what I do have exists on-line. (I haven't had cause to get out much lately, okay?) Even so, I don't think I could be dead for more than a few hours before someone would notice.
Other than the cat. Which is small comfort, really.
To some extent, this is because I have a family. Even in the days when I didn't, while I could extend that time frame to a few days - possibly - eventually someone would notice. Again, it probably would have been family, just more extended than the members I live with now.
But what if I didn't have any family, at all? As of right now, my only work occurs here, at my desk. I have no boss to report to. If the ladybugs finally overwhelmed me (dealing with a minor infestation at the moment), presuming they didn't devour me in some horror movie-esque special effect, at most it would be about two months before I was found. Only because I rent, and my landlord would show up to evict me.
(Wonder if I could finally get him to fix that leaky shower that way...)
And if I didn't rent, if I owned my home? Then, like the woman left alone, it would depend largely upon the weather, I think, and the season in which I died. In the end, that wasn't even how the local woman was found. She was discovered because looters thought her home was abandoned. Not that the looters reported her, but a neighbor noticed them.
My point is, I think it's all too easy for us to isolate ourselves. I'm not going to turn this into a rant against cell phones and tweeting and whatever else people like to point to as a scapegoat. The truth is, we make our own connections. Even if it's just the local person behind the counter when we pick up our Sunday paper. Which is more difficult to do at Walmart, but, again, not getting off into a rant on that, either. If we have no one in our life who would notice our passing, I think we ought to make an effort to do something about that.
It's not even always on us to make those connections, either. As with so many other relationships in life, for good or ill, it takes two. The woman in the article had family. Distant, extended, but family nonetheless. One of them, I think, should have noticed. Should have tried to pick up the phone over the holidays, or something. She had neighbors, too. I don't know if the blame lies with anyone source, and I suspect there's more than enough to go around.
So as we approach the holidays - and I know we do because the commercials have started - I think it's a good time to look around and take stock of our connections, and those of others. And perhaps ask if, in the coming season, the best gift we can give might not just be that of our company.
[If you're inclined to read it, the original article is at: www.goerie.com - just click the link for the full url.]