It is a sad commentary on some of us when you live in an urban dwelling, an apartment no less with other people in close proximity to you, and your death is unknown until your body decays to such a state that your organs explode and attracts the attention of the tenant below you only after the fluids from the ruptured corpse slimed their way into that lower apartment.

elderlyand alone

It would be an understatement with my lead in to this post to say that living alone, especially in old age, has its drawbacks.  It’s understandable if you are an anthropophobic, a misanthrope or just generally anti-social.  Such people tend to avoid contact with other humans but in so doing they may contribute to an ugly death that leaves them exiting life as part of a restoration effort to remove the odor their decayed body leaves behind, much like what you see in the picture below.


The deceased, an elderly woman living in a Keystone Condominium in an area of Palm Beach County just north of Miami, Florida, lived only with her dog (or dogs), who were sadly forced to live off of the decayed remains of the woman after her body organs exploded, until they were rescued.

The undiscovered body went through its normal decaying process and eventually bloated to the point that the gasses inside the corpse built enough pressure that it caused its abdomen to burst.       SOURCE

The dark humor that can be derived from all of this is enhanced by the fact that the woman who lived below this lady, Judy Rodrigo, failed to convince her insurer, State Farm, that the odor that seeped into her apartment from the dead woman’s remains should be covered under the terms of her policy.   A state court however sided with State Farm, stating that her policy “didn’t cover for an exploded body”.

“The plain meaning of the term ‘explosion’ does not include a decomposing body’s cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids,” they court stated, per the New York Post.
The court went on to say that Rodrigo failed to establish that the woman’s corpse was 
”tantamount to an explosion.”

How corporate-minded of the Florida state court.   Wouldn’t want all those insurance claims declaring damages from exploding corpses to diminish the revenue of a leading insurance company.

It’s not that State Farm wasn’t willing to compensate Ms. Rodrigo for the effected areas the body fluids impacted but Ms. Rodrigo argued that the payout was insufficient

According to a report in the NY Daily News, a contractor with State Farm inspected Rodrigo’s unit and approved an appraisal award. But Rodrigo rejected that award, saying she deserved full coverage for the damage.

Missing from this tragic tale is that very little was said about the human being who died alone in her apartment, ultimately leading to what became news fodder for the media.  According to one source a neighbor, Nicholas Colangelo, said “the deceased woman lived alone and had no family.   There was no foul play suspected,” he said. The woman died of old age.  Colangelo says “she moved in after her last known family member, her mother, passed away in the same apartment.”  Apparently Colangelo, Rodrigo and other neighbors never weighed this information when “the deceased” no longer made her presence known to them.  The likelihood that she could have hurt herself and died never seem to phase her neighbors.


When the “human spirit” is missing


There doesn’t seem to be a day or week that goes by that tragic news reports from extreme weather damages like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes always seem to find some kind of uplifting backstory in the face of these life-altering events, showing people reaching out to help each other or strangers arriving from far away to help restore some semblance of normality to victims of violent storms.  Newscasters ooze with warmth conveying how strong the “human spirit” is that helps such people in dire straights.

Somewhere there is flag floating in the background and the camera will do a closeup of a teary-eyed victim as someone hands her or him the family bible that was salvaged from the wreckage.  Viewers can all feel a little bit better that from such devastation courage and acts of kindness are still alive and well in this great land.

These are the palatable reports that try to brush over the deeper pain and suffering we all know these victims will have to endure.  Too much more information and we might just feel compelled to switch channels.  We assure ourselves that they will be able to rebuild their lives and for the religious, this all is part of God’s plan anyway.  The washing of the hands is complete.  Move along now.

We don’t want to hear those stories where people ignore cries for help from abused spouses and children or where an isolated elderly person dies alone in their apartment because others couldn’t be bothered.  These are stories that show the failure of the human spirit; to reach out under less revealing but equally devastating circumstances for their victims.  Such tragedies occur within the confines of one’s home and this justifies our hands-off approach to such horrible outcomes.  Yet who can avoid feeling some regret that had they just reacted to their gut feelings to what they were sure were cries for help or a person’s long absence signaling a problem, outcomes would have been less destructive?

Acts of kindness are easier to play out when the physical realities confront us as they do after the fact.  Few and far apart are those who proactively reach out to potential victims  before tragedy strikes.  I am in awe of such people yet I know from practical experience that sustaining such an dedication can be difficult.  Most of us have volunteered our time to help those less fortunate than ourselves but many fall away over a period of time, hoping I suspect that others will pick up the slack in their absence.

But for all we do that does help many, I am still blown away by the realization of how a neighbor of many years  can remain essentially a stranger and fail to generate any interest in us when their presence diminishes.  We know they are elderly and we may even be aware that their health is poor.   So why do we ignore the obvious when we no longer see them shuffle their way out to the mail box to get their mail, or walk their pet or notice that no lights are on after the sun sets or that one light in particular always seems to be on?  These are easy signs to recognize that something might be askew and yet we console ourselves with the weak recognition that we are not their keeper.  We are not their close relative who has more of an obligation to check up on them than we do – or do we?

There is a feeling pervading the American psyche that constantly asserts the rights of individuals in ways that diminishes the collective responsibility people have toward others.  There are still many who live among us who go out of their way to help others under threat of death from natural causes but there are also many who turn their head and refuse to get involved with the poor, the powerless and the elderly who hide their hurt and shame behind the walls that separates them from their neighbors.

These disenfranchised people are often left feeling that reaching out to others is a sign of weakness or is reflective of that disdainful lot that has been labeled as moochers and takers.  For them then hope gets swallowed up and it becomes the norm to accept your fate, even if that means dying alone and waiting for the stench of your body to alert others next door that your passing from this Earth has occurred.

12 responses to “DYING ALONE

  1. Sadly, people don’t want to be burdened. If you knock on that door you become responsible. They don’t want to move — they just want someone to help run their life until they die–pay the bills and shop, etc. Most people feel they don’t have the time or money to become involved. Very sad but true.

    • I’m sure there is an element of truth to what you say Victoria but you really never know what will transpire until you knock on that door. Fearing that more than you want to happen will happen seems like just another reason to rationalize the failure of the “human spirit”.

  2. Sad that a society has digressed into the society we have now……for me it is the ME attitude and the rest regardless of kinship are on their own……this society needs help and no help will come……..are we capable of changing? I have my doubts.

    • I think a part of this Chuq is that we have become victims of our rapid growth. We have evolved into large impersonal communities and growing up with “stranger danger” keeps us at an arms distance from people who share a habitat with us but are not part of any close circle of friends.

      But we have also been terrified and more deeply infused about the dangers that lurk out there, vis a vis a sophisticated web of media sources, that fear tends to override our more compassionate inclinations. We hate to recognize this – understandably so – but rather than confront our fears we devise rationale that justify not getting involved, even when the threat level is very low. I mean, how big of a threat is an elderly, ailing individual to most people?

  3. the only comfort I take is that we understand that historically life has been a mean thing. It is less mean now..It will become less mean in the future, (I trust). You carve out a place and you help. That’s the best we can do, all the while reminding others constantly that there is much unfairness, uncertainty, fear, misery, and meanness still around that needs addressing.

    • I don’t deny, nor should anyone think otherwise, that life IS hard for most people and untimely deaths are a fact of life. But in these kinds of settings with people all around you and for them to be unaware of your death until the decadent odor of a decomposed body seeps through your neighbor’s floor seems coldly impersonal, uncaring and conflicting with the so-called “human spirit” people like to tout about in this culture.

      It could of course be the result, as I mentioned, of the deceased woman being simply an offensive person who failed to endear people to her. But still, an elderly person not visible for weeks in an apartment complex would at least have some neighbors suggesting to management that maybe they might want to check in on her to make sure all is well. You would think too that her dog(s) would draw attention to some loud moaning or yelping day in and day out after her death.

  4. I know a dude who rented to a guy who dropped down dead last year. He died, bloated & exploded on the second floor floor, right over the dude’s bedroom. It kind of smelled for a while.

    As I barely leave the house anymore, (such is my desire to mix with the human race) I’m willing to bet that’s how I go out…that or a drone strike.

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