Disclaimer: If you’re not in the mood for something just outright fucking depressing turn back now and go visit these corgis being awesome and I’ll be back to my usual random ridiculousness soon.
You know how people (grown-ass women, mainly) say things like, “Don’t let me die alone” or “I’m never going to find anyone; when I die dogs are going to find me surrounded by Dove chocolate wrappers”? It always seems hilarious until your aunt is found by the police three days later in her apartment.
This isn’t meant to be a cry out for sympathy or empathy. I can’t say that I’ve even seen my dad’s sister in person in the last five years. I can’t claim that I was good to her in the time since I came back from grad school in Tennessee. Not responding to her text messages about women’s college basketball and not being able (or willing) to answer her phone calls during work was truly hurtful and uncalled for. To be honest, anyone who heard about the extent of our relationship since I became an adult and she became our “crazy aunt” might consider me disrespectful, mean or even despicable.
Regardless of how our connection had deteriorated, she was my dad’s only sister and she died alone. She died alone, probably scared and nobody was around to realize she was gone for three days. Her voicemail had to become full before anyone started to worry.
I know I should be thinking about all the good times with her (which are difficult for me to remember). The times when she babysat my brother and me, playing Pizza Party and Don’t Break the Ice until we dropped or at least until one of them cheated (or won) and I pouted, thrusting my bottom lip out in such a fashion that my aunt would threaten to cut my lip off and fry it up for breakfast – her only defense against a potential tantrum.
But instead of thinking about her life, a life that I realize I know very, very little about, in the end, all I can think about is her death. It’s not clear yet exactly what happened, but one can imagine nothing good could have happened when the police find you in your apartment three days after you’ve died.
And here’s the thing I can’t get out of my brain: she shouldn’t have been alone. She and her husband had been married for decades. Decades. According to popular culture and marriage lore, getting married not only solves all of your problems as a female, but also will be sure to prevent you from dying alone. Or at least from dying and nobody realizing it. How many times a week are we told that if we just find that special someone, we won’t be “found by the dogs” like Bridget Jones quips or discovered in bed surrounded by half-eaten cheese and bread?
If it wasn’t clear before, my aunt’s death has taught me once and for all that getting married or finding someone to be with forever doesn’t guarantee that you can avoid the troubling and, honestly, terrifying end which she met. It’s not right or fair that this is how she died. Her husband can’t be blamed for having to stay in a physical therapy clinic and the rest of us can’t blame ourselves for not even knowing what was going on in their lives right now. But I think we can all agree that nobody, not even our worst enemies, should be fated to die scared and alone.
So, in honor of my aunt, Sandi, who, even with her faults, was a loving and dedicated daughter, sister, wife, aunt and friend, let’s all remember that nothing is guaranteed. If that means we should do something that we’ve putting off, or tell someone something that we’ve been meaning to say, or just check in with someone who we should have caught up with a long time ago, then just do it. You never know where you might be in three days time.