I came across this article yesterday in my Facebook. I find it very powerful, and it definitely struck a chord in me, I just have to share it.
Regardless of a person’s life in the past, no one deserves to die alone.
Will you come to my funeral?
Jan was afraid of death, but not of dying. Jan was afraid that no one would know that he had died.
«Christoffer, can you promise me something?»
It was Jan, an old wanderer at the Møtestedet. The Møtestedet is Kirken Bymisjon’s cafe in Oslo for guests living on the streets, mostly people who had a history of substance abuse.
«I’m counting that I would be dying alone. Can you promise to come to my funeral? So I would not be alone there as well?»
A life alone
Jan’s mother and father are both dead. They should be when Jan himself is already 70 years old. His older sister is also dead, and the little nephew he once adored had been taken all too soon. There was no one else left. Jan is alone.
He had friends when he was younger, he says, but they are also all dead. After he had to quit the job he has had at a workshop for more than 40 years, there was little else he could turn to except for drinking. Random guests at the local pub at the supermarket became his social circle.
He knew them by their first names, and they nod at him whenever they randomly bump into each other on the street. They never asked each other though, how each one of them is doing. No one asks Jan about anything. He just existed, but never lived.
The great fear
Jan came to know about the Møtestedet by accident, and began to visit here regularly. He didn’t say much in the beginning. It was not surprising, considering he had almost never spoken to anyone for 10 years. Slowly, the weather-beaten old man began to open up.
He spoke of a lonely life, a life few of us can identify with. A life where no one asked if one has slept well the previous night, of what one would be doing the rest of the day, or how the past weekend had been. No one to share sorrows and happiness with. Or rather: no one to share the sorrows with, because Jan had no happy memories as he himself recalled.
Something happened eventually, and Jan became more trusting. He began talking about his biggest fear. He asked what I was afraid of, and I replied. Superficially. Jan was not superficial. He said what was bothering him, on the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up and the last thing that haunts him before going to sleep:
Jan was afraid of death. But not of dying. Jan was afraid that no one would find out that he had died. Afraid that he would be left lying in his apartment, dead. And worst of all: Jan was afraid that no one would come to his funeral.
Wanting to be watched over
Jan wanted me to have his telephone number, and give him a call should he disappear. It was his insurance. It was what he needed so he could sleep better at night, drink less and keep the loneliness at bay. Jan wanted to be assured that someone is watching over, and that someone would call the police before the neighbors begin to react to the smell (of death) coming from his apartment.
In Jan’s obituary it would read: «On behalf of friends». Ironic, since Jan has no friends.