Monday, March 10, 2014

The Forgotten

Occasionally, in this space, I’ll write about a topic other than running. Sometimes, something catches my eye and just begs to be explored, or reflected upon.This is one of those times…

Early one morning, in Pontiac Michigan, Pia Farrenkopf quietly walked to her garage, got into her car, and died. This is not unusual. Approximately 34,000 Americans die every year in their vehicles and over 10 times that many die annually in their homes. So, Pia Farrenkopf’s death in her car at her home was not, in and of itself, unusual. What was unusual about Pia’s death, however, was that she died and no one noticed.


How is this possible, you ask? In an age of three-letter acronyms such as IBM, AOL, AT&T, NSA, and FBI (not to mention IRS!), how can someone just drop off the grid without a trace? How is it possible for a middle-aged woman, in a city with a population of over 60,000 people, to die and have no one notice? What about her neighbors, her friends, her family, her place of employment?  Not to mention her creditors, her mailman, her lawn guy, or her local scout cookie salesgirl?

Her neighbors described her as a quiet person, who kept to herself and travelled a lot. So, they didn’t think it was odd when they hadn’t seen her for a while. One neighbor even came by every so often to trim her lawn, just to keep the neighborhood looking good. But, he never once bothered to stick his head in and say hello. The sheriff said her former employer hadn’t seen her since she was laid off – back in 2007.

Her family members confirmed that she lived alone, had no close friends to speak of and, despite numerous attempts to reach her via phone and mail, never tried to follow-up with her to see if something had gone wrong. Her mail was directed to a PO Box and, when it went unclaimed, was marked return to sender. And, all her bills were paid through an automatic withdrawal from her checking account.

Her mummified body was discovered late last week (in the back seat of her Jeep Liberty) only after a contractor, hired by her mortgage company, stopped by her now-foreclosed home to make some pre-sale repairs. Apparently, the $54,000 she had in her account had to run out eventually. It took exactly 6 years.

After hearing this story, my first reaction was, “Ewww, gross!” followed quickly by, “Ohhh, how terribly sad!”  But now, after I’ve had a chance to reflect, I’ve settled on, “Wow, that’s actually kind of awesome!”

Think about it. For all intents and purposes, this woman (virtually) lived 6 extra years! To everyone other than her God, and presumably herself, Pia Farrenkopf was quietly living out her days (2190 of which were of the bonus variety!) in the peace and solitude of this sleepy Detroit suburb - seemingly without a care in the world!
If all things remained equal, and this woman’s body was discovered the day after she died, then she’d likely have been buried and forgotten within weeks, if not days.

Now, after hearing this story, I challenge you to forget about Pia Farrenkopf any time soon!

I know I won’t.

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