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A Sad and Lonely Goodbye

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by Vol-E

As they say, things can change in a heartbeat.

My next-door neighbor Mike died this afternoon. He was 38 and the non-custodial father of a 9-year-old who was known to say "My dad is my best friend."

It's far too soon to tell why Mike died. Based on his behavior reported over the last couple of days, he may well have had a heart attack. He was physically uncomfortable, rubbing his chest (and also sometimes tugging at his hair), verbalizing that he was having a "panic attack," but then saying he was "fine" when co-workers asked if he wanted to visit the Emergency Room. 

Some people who lived with him are not ruling out an overdose. Mike had some vices, according to them.

But what he doesn't seem to have had was any sort of close family. The people he roomed with searched his phone and tried to find someone in Florida, which is where he said his mother lived. Last I heard, none of the numbers worked. It is also far too soon to know what sort of "arrangements" will be made. If no one steps up to pay for a funeral, a crowdfunding page might be the next option. We know his van will be repossessed, because he had purchased it a year or so ago and was making payments. 

So often we hear about the passing of famous or prominent people. They get lengthy eulogies, standing-room-only funerals, and frequently updated Wikipedia pages. Other than James Brown, who stayed above ground for two and half months, due to some legal issues and family conflicts, most well-known people have their "affairs" in order. At the very least, their family can afford a funeral director who will help to smooth the way. 

But there are so many other cases, like Mike's, where death, much like their lives, looks like an afterthought. Mike was a guy who rented a room in a crowded house with eight other people, none of whom was family. He worked third shift at a drive-through eatery, after losing or resigning several similar jobs in the space of a few years. He could easily fill up an entire day off sitting in his room (or his van) playing video games, and he died naked on the floor of a bathroom, with the shower running. Even as the police and EMTs interviewed his housemates, some of those people could not stop themselves from remarking on whatever shortcomings they knew Mike to possess. So much for "Don't speak ill of the dead." In cases like Mike's, sometimes there's nothing to eulogize. Not necessarily because they were rotten, evil people. More like they had so little to distinguish them. People like Mike seem to just pass through their lives the way travelers pass through a Greyhound bus station.

Stephen Covey listed seven habits of highly effective people, and one of those was "Begin with the end in mind." So most of us have begun, and did so long ago, but I think it's useful to keep "the end" in mind. Whose number will be dialed when that day comes? Will we leave anything from our lives that translates into true mourning from those we leave behind?

Mike's passing is among the saddest I've heard of. My thoughts are with his little boy.

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