*Small update of no update. Still worth the read…
“Apparently, according to the letter I received today from the Los Angeles County Public Guardian, I’m dead. It’s been such a sublime, peaceful, extremely bright day today that I’m starting to question it myself. Though, in Heaven, I wouldn’t be out of smokes. I’ll let you know if I resurrect anytime soon in the eyes of the State of California.”
Facebook, September 30, 2013
That was my Facebook post on September 30, 2013. The letter I received wasn’t, as I initially thought as anyone would, a fraud. It didn’t ask for any money or social security numbers or anything we’re told not to give out. It was straightforward and clear. It asked how my funeral and burial expenses were to be paid upon my death. My death. The Death of Mary Knop. After my initial bristling from seeing my name wrong again, I read and re-read the letter. Yes, that was me, the only Mary (Ellen, damnit!) Knop in California. I scoured the Internet for a Mary Knop in California again, but as far as I could tell, I was the one, the only, the top, coolest…the only Mary Knop in this great state of ours. Even Facebook didn’t have one listed in California and Facebook’s got everything. Well, I may not have searched very hard but I did dig a little deeper than Facebook. I even checked MySpace, though that one was a little hard to get to because I had to go back in time to 2005.
Here it was, this letter of concern for Mary Knop’s impending death. Me. Concerning, for sure, but especially, why was I a “conservatee” ? I mean, I was touched that Los Angeles County Public Guardian had such deep concerns over my, well, being and wanted to take over my final arrangements but I couldn’t help but wonder if they knew something about me I didn’t. Did I need help in this arena? Am I mentally unable to speak out on my behalf regarding my final wishes? I think that setting aside a funeral fund so I can be made into a giant piñata is showing a lot of forethought. Proof, in fact, I’m not crazy and in need of supervision, right?
But here I was, a conservatee, someone mentally unable to properly care for themselves and in need of a county conservatorship. I could laugh at already being dead because it was ridiculous but what if I only thought I was sitting in my apartment with my cat in San Diego? I’ve seen a movie or two. I know that while my beautiful mind might be giggling at my own fart jokes and congratulating its own cleverness, I really could be staring at a rubber wall in LA with a faraway, maniacal look on my deeply-lined visage. Hell, I could be a 28-year-old Cleveland man wondering why there are so many people in doctors’ scrubs wandering around my basement. It’s possible. And not a terrible way to spend a day, but I like my reality like I like my men, tangible and partly sunny with a chance of showers. Personal sanity, while understandably concerning, is subjective, and there is no real way to gauge it.
I checked my phone, and it still dialed out.
That was it, though. I was out of tricks. How do you reaffirm your sanity? I’m teetering on the edge as it is, so none of my usual thoughts were instilling any confidence in me. The little people in my head were far from convinced. They… I kept telling myself that I knew who and where I was and that my reality was, at the very least, taxable so therefore I was sane, not in need of a conservatorship, in the eyes of the law. Insanity is not necessarily a viable tax exemption, of course.
At any rate, I finally found someone at the LA Public Guardian’s office who would answer my phone calls inquiring about my death. And the story gets sadder from there.
I’m not dead (good!) or insane (TBD). There does exist another Mary Knop in California (not so good).
Once I learned that there is another Mary Knop in California, her reality wasn’t nearly as silly as my own. The cryptic clues I was given and the simple, glaring fact that I did receive this letter reaching out to anyone, apparently, with similar names about her impending death doesn’t bode well. Your assumptions are easy and true and just as bad as you would hate to think.
I feel terrible about this other Mary, this alternate-reality-me, this what-if. I wish I could do something. For her, because it’s terrible to think of this person dying alone in the world without a single family member to help in her final days or even pat her hand or send a warm note. And for me, because doing something might save me from an existence that I, only minutes before that phone call, didn’t even know was a thing. Now, the unhappy realization that people do live in this awful state of Purgatory, of waiting to die alone, has presented itself with full-blown blood-and-guts via spectra-vision in my life.
I blame the US Postal Service. I’m not sure why, but they’re easy targets. Had the Public Guardian called me, emailed me, texted me, Facebook messaged me or I’m-all-over-the-internet-for-Christ’s-sake’d me, I could have cleared this up immediately with no more thought to who was at the other end of their task. But no, because of the formality of an official letter, the hard copy detailing the filing away of an actual someone, it becomes more real. Now I’m mourning a person I’ve never met, can’t get to, or help solely because of the accident that is our shared name. Stupid mail system. Stupid fate.
So, where are we now? I added a note to the letter I sent back to the Los Angeles Public Guardian. The formal letter asked if they could make sure they clear this name thing up on their end, in writing, because I have a feeling that this is going to bite me in my ass come retirement or some internment of my own. How will San Diego’s Public Guardian know what to do with me if I already died in LA in 2013? And, of course, taxes, social security, credit score, etc., can all be affected if I end up dead in the eyes of the state. A few years ago, I was getting calls from collection agencies hitting me up for bills in a Los Angeles County hospital that I had never incurred. I thought those were a fluke or a scam or even from when my debit card number was stolen from a parking lot auto-attendant machine in LA that one time and brushed it off my conscience. However, it was probably that other Mary then and thinking about why is too much for now.
The note I added said that I’d like to do something appropriate for her, whether it’s a card to say someone in the world is thinking about her or a phone call to hopefully make her last moments a little less lonely. I don’t know how the Guardian will handle that, but I had to ask. I had to reach out…somehow. I’ll have to wait and see if that opens an even bigger can of worms than all of this has already pried into.
I haven’t heard back. I’m still waiting.
As of now, that’s where I, and the story, stand. Waiting. Purgatory. Neither Heaven nor Hell but some place in between where you wish you would’ve peed before you left and thought to have brought a snack.
Update: As of December 15, 2014, I haven’t received any responses to my many requests for information regarding Mary Knop, though, I can only imagine there is only one, very final, outcome. I also haven’t received any information regarding my own fate in the eyes of the state, either. I can only hope that, someday, another little doppelganger-in-name isn’t receiving notice and mourning my solitary death. I do know that LA’s Mary has made sure I’ll never let that happen and, in that, I pray she’ll somehow get notice that she didn’t really die alone.