January 25, 2008
I walked out my front door today and saw a body bag.
We live in a complex of one-story apartment buildings and our front door is separated from the building across by a 20 foot sidewalk. I could have taken 10 steps and touched the gurney the bag was on. It looked like a long, white garment bag made of some sort of thin plastic, with a zipper running down the full length of it. I instinctively knew it was a body bag by the contours of the shape inside. I recognized Wayne, who use to live there, holding a woman I assumed to be his girlfriend, trying to keep warm in the freezing temperatures. I invited them inside for hot chocolate and a warm place to wait. Wayne had recently moved out leaving David, a 57 year old veteran and diabetic, living in the apartment alone. As he sipped his hot chocolate, he told me he had come by to check on David and found him dead. The paramedics believed he had died three days earlier of a diabetic seizure.
After Wayne left, I continued to think about this man who had been dead for three days before anyone had known. I often saw him in passing but rarely spoke to him beyond a simple "hello". As time went on, I couldn't shake the feeling in some sense that I had failed as a neighbor. I wondered, not if I could have saved him, but if he would have been found sooner, had I been paying attention.
January 29, 2008
I answered a knock at my door to find a strange man standing there. It was David's 35 year old son. He told me his dad had just bought some home supplies and offered me the unopened items. He had come down from MI, where David's family, including his 81 year old mother, still lived. He had spoken with his father only by phone for the past 17 years. He had never met his daughter-in-law or three grand children.
As he talked, I was struck by this broken relationship that now had no chance to be mended. No reconciliation, only regret was possible.
Death was already on my mind as I had read earlier in the week, along with everyone else, about the death of Heath Ledger. That same day, Collin had learned the his grandmother had fallen ill and was expected to pass at anytime. A few days later, my dear friend learned her mother-in-law was told by doctors she only had a month to live.
All these events have driven home to me the importance of relationships: my relationship with my husband, with my family, with my friends, and even with my next door neighbor. I'm still not sure how I should respond, or even if a response is necessary. The only thing I do know for sure is to love the people around you and not to risk regret.
By: Collin and Brittney