I’m sure that somewhere there’s a statistic for everything.
And somewhere in those statistics likely rests the number of people who die in their homes each year because of extreme cold or extreme heat.
When Henry County coroner Jimmy Pollard called me Monday morning to tell me of the death of Myra Shelden, it weighed heavy on my heart.
Shelden was found in her home on Friday night, with preliminary results indicating she died from hypothermia.
She had just a small space heater for warmth, according to Henry County Sheriff’s Department Detective Danny Stivers. She died cold and alone, no family nearby according to Stivers.
I’ll refrain from tackling the many ways in which I find this so very sad, but Pollard was right when he said this should be a wake-up call for many of us to make sure we keep an eye on our neighbors. That’s particularly true when the neighbors are elderly or ill. And it’s almost vital in rural areas, where cold and inclement weather can, at times, completely hinder travel.
Advocates for Meals-on-Wheels style programs often say that one key benefit of the service is that it provides contact to the outside world for seniors who are shut-ins and or those who have limited contact with others. And some of the beneficiaries of those programs echo those words.
Those who deliver the meals don’t just bring food, they bring companionship and a keen interest in how the person is doing.
But those programs, while very important, cannot reach all of the shut-ins and seniors who could, so very desperately, use them.
Whether it’s pride or a simple lack of awareness, many don’t seek out the service.
Perhaps Shelden was one of those. If her death serves any purpose, I hope it reminds us to check on our neighbors.
It’s one of the many things we’ve gotten away from in a fast-paced, self-centered culture.
Don’t assume someone else is checking on your neighbor, knock on the door yourself.