Last week the Internet caught my attention with two stories that are not linked other than the subject of death. In one, a fifty-one year old woman died at her office desk and no one noticed until the next day when they saw her slumped over in her chair. The second story involved a man who has been sitting on ice for the past ten months in a county morgue because no one has come to claim the body.
Death can be a very lonely thing. There is that quick moment where either you struggle valiantly and give up against your will or with the snap of a finger you’re gone in mid sentence. For Rebecca Wells, the unfortunate but dedicated worker, life ended abruptly without a chance to say goodbye to anyone who cared.
She was a government worker doing an audit on the second floor of an office building in East Los Angeles. She chose to sit in a cubicle that was adjoined by mostly vacant cubicles so that she would not be disturbed. Her intentions were to work late that Friday February 11 until 6:30pm and enjoy the rest of the weekend. There was a lot to look forward to after becoming a grandmother for the first time a week earlier. She called whomever at 5:00pm and announced her delay. That was the last conversation she ever had with another living human being. The next day, Saturday at 1pm a security guard made the rounds of the building and found Rebecca slumped in her chair.
In our other story, William Berry was a hard luck fifty-four year old fellow. He apparently had at once done something that required spending time in jail and was now homeless. An owner of an auto body shop, Rana Saleem, took a liking to William and allowed him to sleep at night in his shop. William truly wasn’t a bad guy and used to get comfort from reading the Bible. He would tell anyone who would listen that Rana was like family to him.
In April 2010, William died from a brain aneurysm and was found the next morning when the shop opened. He was taken to the Cook County morgue in Chicago awaiting family to come and claim his body. It never happened. Rana says that William had once told him that his parents had made an effort to drive up from Florida to visit him when he was in jail but they were killed in a car accident along the way. Apparently he had no other relatives who wanted to spend money to give him a proper burial. Rana had offered to do so but was turned down by county authorities because he had no legal standing with William.
Two people die. One leaves an infant grandchild who will never get to know her and the other one leaves no one who seems to care. Both live a little more than fifty years. One wakes up on their last day of life probably thinking about what they will be doing the next couple of days. The other doesn’t have much to enjoy about his life and to think about other than knowing where he can bed for the night.
The next time someone tells you to drop dead, ask them if they can give more specific instructions.