…CNN reported it this way on their website March 7, 2014
For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.
Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan
Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself. One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy. At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid.
After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes. Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.
Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.
The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition.
Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.
“I’ve been doing this 37 years. Never seen anything like this before,” said Undersheriff Mike McCabe of Oakland County, Michigan, just outside Detroit.
The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.
Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.
“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.
Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.
“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.
McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time. Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.
Another neighbor, Darryl Tillery, told the Detroit Free Press that mail never piled up at the house and the lawn never grew out of order. McCabe said one of the neighbors cut the grass for years.
My Question: Is it OK to let a person “keep to herself?”
She kept to herself…but should we let someone “keep to herself?” I wondered about that when I read this. I am such a proponent of community – in neighborhoods, churches, workplaces and educational institutions. While I never force myself on people (I, too, have an introverted side), I like to get to know people where I live, work and play.
So what if a neighbor is a loner? What about the guy at work who eats lunch alone, or the professor who teaches and heads to her study? While we cannot force people to have relationships, we can move toward them in love and service. In this sad story I kept wondering:
Would I knock on the door? Would I go in? Call the cops? Would I care if a neighbor seemed to “disappear” for too long? What does “love” look like if it does not look like movement toward people? If I love people, can I ignore their apparent desire to be alone? Can I at least nudge forward by asking, seeking and knocking (literally), wondering if God might use me to break through?
The next time you see a pattern of isolation, don’t assume it is desired or even the best thing for someone. Ask, seek and knock. I wonder if she was so lonely she ended her life. We do not know the cause of death, but loneliness had to be a contributing factor.
People are dying for community…literally. Are we aware? Isn’t our lack of awareness and action a sin of the worst kind?
This story could have ended differently. If it had started differently. We can be part of the solution.
Ask…Seek…Knock. Don’t let someone be “the woman/man nobody knew.”