What do you do when life springs a surprise on you? Not a good surprise.
What if you learned this morning that a sister-in-law had died three months ago? None of the surviving siblings were informed of the death by her husband.
Not a good surprise.
Most recently, she lived (and died) in Georgia. She struggled with drugs and alcohol addiction for all of her adult life. The two times I met her, nearly 20 years ago, she’d been sober for 5 years and on top of the world. Though I’ve heard how things have slipped, badly, in the past two decades, it’s hard to reconcile this picture with the courteous and confident woman, meticulously dressed, with perfect hair, makeup and nails. She had all the answers. Five years sober, she was someone who would make it.
My husband’s cell phone rings. Another installment of not a good surprise. We’re trying to piece together what happened. No obituary on the internet, just name, DOB and DOD on a crematorium webpage. No obit at that page, no messages of condolence posted in the lonely blank space below.
Not a good surprise. For us or for her adult son who hadn’t heard from her since he was 13.
The news came to us from one of her childhood friends. They hadn’t seen each other for decades, but the friend had queried for the then-unknown deceased online because she was visiting Georgia with her own son. The friend sent my husband an email with what she’d learned and asked “Is this our Tammy?”
Not a good surprise. For siblings, children or old friends.
The coroner’s office in that far-off Georgia county provided a little more information, which was neither good nor a surprise. It is our Tammy. The coroner does not consider the circumstances of death suspicious but the “case” isn’t closed yet, for normal administrative reasons. The process takes about 3 months.
Tammy died 3 months before her 56th birthday. That was a couple of weeks ago. Unread birthday greetings languish in the digital netherworld. I hope she knows, somehow, that we are thinking of her.
Not a good surprise. Not at all.