From the almost-too-weird-to-believe-it file comes a strange and very sad story that I recently came across in a compilation of weird news stories. It wasn’t exactly Weekend at Bernie’s(which I have to admit I’ve never watched), but it was pretty close. It was an account of a Michigan woman whose live-in companion died of natural causes, but she kept him around for about a year and a half because she didn’t want to be alone and she enjoyed watching NASCAR races with him on television.
The story, originally reported in the Citizen Patriotnewspaper in Jackson, Michigan, told of how the woman didn’t report “Charlie’s” death, but rather kept him in his favorite chair where he had died, and continued to dress and clean him for months. She enjoyed talking to him and watching television, mostly NASCAR races that they had followed when he was alive.
The woman did get into some trouble, because she had apparently continued to cash his Social Security checks, and she had also lied to his family members when they called, saying he wasn’t home. In time, they sent police to the house looking for him, and found his decomposed body still propped up in his chair. They guessed that he had probably died around Christmas more than a year earlier.
No doubt, the woman has more than a few issues, not counting her legal woes. It obviously takes a special case not only to keep a dead body around for companionship, but also to clean and dress it regularly. But the saddest part was how desperately lonely she was that even the company of a dead man was something she didn’t want to lose.
“It’s not that I’m heartless,” the woman told the newspaper. “It’s just that after so many bad things happen to you, I don’t know. I didn’t want to be alone. He was the only guy who was ever nice to me.”
How very sad. And, as much as I realize that this is an exceptional story that you don’t come across every day, it’s still a reminder to us about the hurting world we live in. I wonder how many lonely people are out there around us–in our neighborhoods, or work place, or even sitting next to us in a Sunday worship service–who are looking for someone to just be nice to them, to offer them unconditional love.
“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us,” says Rosaria Butterfield, noted for her unlikely conversion from being an outspoken lesbian professor who hated Christianity to a sold-out believer who ended up being a pastor’s wife. We would all do well to try to understand the hurt and brokenness of the fallen world around us, and offer compassion more than the the casting of stones.
As followers of Jesus Christ, who loved us “even while we were yet sinners,” and gave us the “new commandment” to “love one another,” it’s the very least that we can do. Who has the Lord placed around you this week that needs a kind word, a thoughtful deed, an expression of Christ-like love? It may push you from your comfort zone, and it may require an effort you don’t think you have the energy for or a sacrifice you would just as well not make. But that step of obedience, and compassion, will be worth it. Of this I am sure.
May the Lord use each of us as channels of His love this week. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and look forward to seeing you on Sunday.