It was one of those heart stopping moments you do not want to begin the day with.
As is my usual custom I was reading down the summary list of death notices in the paper - and came across a familiar name. What? Nobody had told us! This was not possible!
I rushed to the full notices on the next page - and breathed a sigh of relief. The name, although quite an unusual one, was not our friend but a very elderly woman.
Even as I breathed a sigh of relief however I was conscious that people will miss that woman. The notice made it clear that she had a family, a family who cared. She had been married. She had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even a great-great-grandchild. It was also obvious they loved her.
Not so another old lady who has recently been found in Sydney. They estimate she had been dead for eight years. Nobody had bothered to check. There are all sorts of excuses from all sorts of people but the bottom line is - nobody cared about her. Nobody cared enough to check on her welfare. The neighbours thought she had gone to live with other family. The power was cut off without anyone checking inside the house. The water use was queried but nobody checked. The mail had been redirected prior to that - because she could not handle her own affairs. She had argued with the person the mail was redirected to and they did not contact her. Her pension kept piling up in her bank account. There were any number of people who should have expressed concern and did not.
I have been responsible for the welfare of a number of elderly people living alone. My degree of responsibility has varied from just dropping in once a week to doing shopping, going to the chemist, collecting mail when they are away, feeding their pets or watering their pot plants. There have been two elderly people for whom I have helped to arrange entry into a nursing home. Neither wanted to go but both knew it was the only option. They were not difficult to get along with but their families did not visit. Instead the families descended on their deaths and argued over who would get what. I was not even invited to their funerals.
Perhaps it will also be the same with the old lady who lay there for eight years. Perhaps there will be relatives somewhere who will descend on the estate and take what they can. They will not even be required to appear at the inquest. They will not be found to be at fault. There is nothing to say that you must care.
I am going to be terribly, terribly selfish and say - I hope someone cares enough to find me long before eight years are up.