Saturday, May 21, 2011

No obituary

When I was growing up, I had a friend, who I will call Jim, for the sake of privacy.

Jim was rather cute--not drop-dead gorgeous, mind you, but cute. He was a little short, and had a nice tan, and a quick smile. He had brown hair mixed with gray. That was very unusual. It was one of the first things you noticed about him when you met him. He also had patches of light pigmentation on his eyelids and various other places. The patch on his eyelids looked somewhat like eye makeup.

We spent a lot of time together in the neighborhood with all of our other friends. We all rode bicycles together, played spotlight, baseball, football, kickball, listened to the radio, attended school, played and ran in the woods and the field together, talked on the phone and anything else we could dream up. Once or twice, I think that we even played spin-the-bottle.

We also shared the same birthday. He was born exactly 1 year before me.

Jim had a mother who had been divorced a couple of times. That was a little unusual back in those days, but not completely rare. She was married to a new man. She had daughters by that man. They were Jim's half sisters. And the new man adopted Jim.

Jim's biological father had deserted him and would have nothing to do with him. None of us in the neighborhood had ever seen him.He didn't talk about it much and we didn't ask. We didn't know what to ask. We didn't know much about a world in which someones father would desert them.

Although Jim was adopted by this man, they weren't close. He didn't spend time with Jim. He was just there. But being there is more than Jim's biological father had done.
And Jim's mom? She pretty much ignored him too. She took her daughters shopping for new clothes and other stuff. But not Jim. One sister was a cheerleader and got absolutely anything that she wanted. It was as if Jim didn't exist to his mom.

Time marched on, we grew up, moved and went our separate ways. But, from time to time, we would run into Jim in various places--the grocery store or the hospital. We heard that he ran off and eloped with a girl, just before her parents had the marriage annulled.

Then we heard that he got married a few years later. I saw him in the grocery store. He said that his wife was in labor having his baby. But he wasn't going to go to the hospital. He was going to go get drunk. That was what his father did when he was born. So he thought that it was the appropriate thing for him to do, too.

I stayed close to a few of the people from the old, dear neighborhood. I got updates from acquaintances about Jim and some of our other mutual friends.

About 2 months ago, a friend from home and I were talking on the phone. She told me that Jim had called her out of the blue. It seems that he was going through a divorce--which number, we didn't know. But it wasn't the first. He had also recently lost his job that he had for many years working in a factory. He was bragging to my friend about how many possessions he had and how much money he had been making. Well, that is, before he lost his job. And, of course, his soon to be ex-wife was trying to take everything from him. It seems that he kept talking about himself and forgot to ask about my friend very much, so she finally ended the conversation after he told her that if she got lucky, he would come and take her out on a date. I think that she told him that she really didn't want to be that lucky.

About a month or two later, I was talking to her on the phone again. She told me that another friend of ours, I'll call him Joe, had told her that Jim died. At one time in life, Joe and Jim were best friends. She asked what happened and Joe said that he didn't really know. He said that Jim was drinking about a quart of hard liquor every morning, and up to a gallon before 24 hours had passed. He guessed that had killed him.

I had a lot of questions. What day had he died? What was the official cause of death? Had he been sick? Had he been hospitalized? Where was he buried? Where was the funeral? Which funeral home had his family used? My friend did not know the answers to any of these questions.

But my curiosity was piqued. We had all grown apart over the years, but I still had an affection for someone with whom we had been so close at one time. So, I began a search for the answers to these questions.

I could find no obituary in any newspaper, no funeral listing at any funeral home, no evidence that he had died at all. I went back to my friend and asked again. We were confused. I did another search on the Internet and finally found a listing that listed Jim as deceased as of 2011 at the age of 50.

That's it. Nothing else. No mention of him on a listing of people in his community who had died. No obituary. No listing at any mortuary in the town where he lived or in any town or city nearby. It was as if he died, and was either left in the spot where he died, and was still there, or, even worse, he died and nobody cared. Nobody. Not even enough to bury him with a proper funeral. Not even a mention in the local newspaper.

I furthered my search and asked my friends on facebook if they knew about his death. I got only one response from a mutual friend asking what happened. I responded that I didn't know; that I had heard that he had died, but that I hadn't been able to get any information since then.

That ended the search. I found a phone number for his mom, but I didn't call. I figured that it would be too awkward.

I think to myself, how sad for someone with living family to die and nobody even notice. Nobody even wrote an obituary. I wondered if he has been buried. I think that it would be terribly sad to live for 50 years, and then die and not even get an obituary. I shudder to think that it could happen to me. I wanted to write him an obit. So, here it is:

Jim, Born Sept 3, 1961. Died March 5, 2011

Jim, was born and lived in Brewton, Alabama most of his life.He enjoyed sports during his young life. He liked to hang out with friends. And he was a ladies man even at a young age.
Later in life, he married, fathered several children, and held down a job for years before his untimely death at the age of 50.
He is survived by his mother, Virginia Smith, of Cantonment, Florida and her husband, Mr. Smith, a wife, several children, and two sisters.
He is also survived by childhood friends, who will probably miss him the most of anybody.

There. Now he has an obituary. Rest in peace, my childhood friend......


  1. You have alot of sad storys on your blog. I feel bad for your friend.

  2. I guess a lot of my stories are sad. Sorry about that. I feel bad for my friend too. I hope he now has peace.

  3. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing

  4. Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.