Thursday, January 30, 2014

She died alone. . .

A young woman who died alone in a drab apartment, remaining there for three years until the property was repossessed; by which time, her skeletal remains were waiting for the bailiffs. During those years, she had been sat in front of a television set that was still on, surrounded by recently wrapped Christmas presents. It couldn't get any more pathetic... The woman, initially identifiable only from dental records, was Joyce Carol Vincent, born in 1965; but it appears that there was not much else about her life that was in anyway as concrete.  A recent film documented this like no other I have seen. Paradoxically, it has a Festive setting; but this is definitely not A Christmas Carol, or for that matter It’s a Wonderful Life—quite the reverse in fact. There is no redemption here, and, perhaps, therein lies the reason why it still haunts me so. Documentaries rarely make any money when shown in cinemas. One released at Christmas, dealing as it did with a lonely death, was always going to be a hard sell. And so, not surprisingly, Dreams of a Life made a pittance at the box office when released in 2011, but it did gain some impressive reviews.

Read more here. . .

The story above is certainly odd but not as rare as some might think.  For all our connections, many of us live relatively lonely lives.  We live unnoticed and so our death is also anonymous.  Undoubtedly we are shocked by this story -- though not entirely surprised.  Too many of us live alone, with few real connections to other people.  So it is not surprising that many die alone.

I recall as a young Pastor coming to a shut-in's for a scheduled visit only to find a cold dead body there waiting for me.  I stayed with the body until a coroner came and the folks from the funeral home.  It was a rural area and the family of this man did not live close.  Eventually it was all sorted out but I felt so terribly sad that Peter had died all alone.  It was completely foreign to me to sit with his partially clothed body on the floor and wait for things to be done as they must but, at the same time, I did not feel I could do anything else.  So I sat and read from the Psalms and prayed for the peaceful repose of the soul of a man I had known only for months.  I was with his wife when she died in the recovery room of the regional medical center.  His own health was not bad but clearly he suffered a broken heart when Lydia died.  It was as if life were too much for him to bear alone.  I wanted to stay with him so that his body would not be alone.

Where these stories of lonely lives and lonely deaths might have been more common in rural areas, today we find them increasingly common in urban areas (the story above took place in London).  We live in close proximity to people yet live rather solitary lives.  It is to this very situation that the Gospel speaks and it is for this we proclaim Emmanuel.  Having lost the ministries of hospitals to large chains and having been stymied by the government requirements upon other caring ministries, is this not an area where we as the Church might make a big impact for the sake of Christ?

1 comment:

Jim Davis said...

The blog posted earlier (Methodism in pastoral care) implies that we should not do anything beyond liturgy and prayer. I disagree.
My congregation did a memorial service for my deceased wife this week on 28 hours notice. Grief sharing in a group setting is planned and led by one of the pastors. This is a part of the Christian ministry to parishioners and community members.