From Where I Sit – Staying In Touch

Seniors and/or their families may choose assisted living units or other housing because of assurances that daily checks on residents are done.

Business people join breakfast groups to network and promote themselves and their services to other professionals.

Some people join groups of like-minded people for support, fellowship, learning, and common interests.

People in the workforce have colleagues. People with health challenges may have medical and/or support group connections. Everyone has bills to pay and mail that comes.

Most people have a built-in safety net of family or close friends who know, love and care for them. Despite the difficulties entailed in maintaining relationships, most of us manage to do it. For some, it’s by telephone. For others, email is the quick and easy answer for keeping in touch with those across town or thousands of miles away. Family reunions, lunches with friends, and Christmas cards are other methods of staying in touch.

I understand that none of us are irreplaceable, but I refuse to believe that a person exists who will not be missed by someone.

That’s why the story of a Winnipeg man found in his condo two years after his death is so unbelievably sad. What forces converged in such a tragic end? It’s assumed banking technology deposited a pension cheque into his account that covered automatic payment of his condo fees and other bills.

Because his body was mummified, an exact cause of death couldn’t be determined, though foul play was ruled out. Multiple sclerosis was suspected as a contributing cause of death. Experts with the Multiple Sclerosis Society say MS in of itself is not fatal, though complications from the condition could be.

Canada Post was investigating if corporate policy was followed each time his overflowing mailbox was emptied by a mail carrier. Neighbours assumed Mr. Sulkers was on an extended vacation and never detected an odd odour. A cousin said the family disintegrated after the death of his mother some ten years earlier. It appears the fifty-something man had a least two siblings and a father.

A National Post story dated August 27, 2004 quotes one woman who vowed to phone her neighbour every other day if she doesn’t see her because “a lot of us are alone.” It would be interesting to note, a year after this story broke, if anything has changed for those closest to the situation.

How can this tragedy, long since off the public radar, change how you and I live our lives? I know I can certainly do a better job of staying in touch. I’m really not a phone person but it is a logical tool for some relationships. I’m trying to learn to love email for its low cost and immediacy. I still send cards and hand written notes on occasion. Maybe I’ll worry less about giving my kids their space and call them more. I’ll keep up the lunches with friends and renew my art club and writers group memberships. I’ll continue popping in on my mom and stepfather and visit my sisters more often. Mr. Sulkers death will not be in vain, from where I sit.

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