Not Alone

More than once we hear that someone has died alone. The awfulness of that is chilling to the bone.

A news report brought this to my attention, a Vietnam Veteran with no family and few friends, left this life with no one noticing, no one to care.

According to the story, 77-year-old Peter Turnpu, of North Hanover Township, New Jersey, died of natural causes, and essentially, disappeared from this planet without a trace. Very sad, but not the end of the story. Local police and a funeral director, pitched in and provided a service and burial, and 1,000 strangers showed up to pay their respects.

Dying is the final page in life. It is often hard and painful. The downward spiral is not graceful or dignified. Knowing you are on the journey can bring peace or induce fear. Facing the walk alone is unfathomable.

People are alone for all kinds of reasons and circumstances. In our lifetimes we collect friends and most of us have at least a person or two related by birth, we call family. Thousands of people pass through our lives, some of them stick, most keep passing by.

I have no idea of Mr. Turnpu’s life or circumstances.  A life is a complicated thing and it is easy to judge others.  That’s not my purpose.  To be alone as your body exhales it’s last breath is a tragedy. Everyone deserves compassion, someone’s presence, certainly the warmth of holding their hand during that final moments of life.  To be with someone in those final moments is like a huge wave rushing over you, almost taking away your own breath.  Death can be very quiet yet the shock waves of reality are tremendous.

One thousand strangers said goodbye to Mr. Turnpu and thanked him for his service to our country. He might have been a stranger in life, and although late, he found friends in death.


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