Yesterday, I read this story about a woman who vanished from existence, the lives she lived and the people she knew. It is as if she did not die suddenly or without warning, she simply ceased to be and though people wracked their brains, their memories and even their journals, there were countless people who simply could not remember seeing her pass from living to the count of dead. There is a tremendous amount of sadness in Joyce Vincent’s death, the fact that no one knew she had died and had instead imagined her off somewhere living an extravagant life and chasing after dreams, does this mean that she was not really dead until someone knew? Floating in an existential soup of BBC 1, old washing and 3 year old yogurt. She lived on in some way because the people who knew her believed her alive but that knowledge was nothing but a lie.
In this time of gross communication (obviously, not disgusting but tremendous), it seems so… inconceivable that a person can just disappear and no one noticed. It’s not like there were reports of her disappearance, that someone cried at night because they did not know where she was, what she was doing. They simply didn’t know so the believed her alive. It begs the question, if you have all the means of communication, besides the obvious telephone, does it really matter? That smart phone at your hip, with its insistent red light or flashing icon to signify that someone in the world is looking for you, does it matter if you are so isolated that the phone ceases to be?
To all appearances, until she vacated life – I have difficulty using the term death in relation to Vincent because she simply ceased to be, like an Olympian god whom no one believes in so she fades into nothingness, Vincent lived a full life. Friends. Wild experiences like meeting Nelson Mandela, lovers. Somehow, it wasn’t enough. The cause of her death is unknown. Fitting to the death she experienced.
She was young, only 38 at the time of her death. She did not outlive all the people her life accumulated. I originally set out to write about quality of life and the fact that it in so many ways our obsession with the length of one’s life overshadows a life well lived. As though finally succumbing at the age of 97 after 30 years of sickness and heartache is a triumph. My father died young (it’s interesting what we consider young), at the age of 65. He had sworn his entire life that he would live to 68. It was just the way it was supposed to be. When he did not fulfill that promise, I was stunned, as though he could somehow fulfill his macabre promise. I have an idea that age does not matter, that clocking in time at a cosmic punch clock is not quite the same as big “L” living.