Becky Says...

July 15, 2001

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Tales of the Non-Dead - Part II

In Part I, I told you about learning of the non-demise of my friend JohnDoe. This part is about learning of the non-demise of my friend Wendy. Since she has already written of how she came to declare herself dead, I won't retell it. But I will say I understand her reason, as I understood JohnDoe's earlier. Also, she's appearing under her own name since she already told the tale.

I had known Wendy for a long time when I heard that she was dead. She and I had one of those friendships that allowed for infrequent contact, but was easily resumed when we ran into each other. We used to see each other on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill when we both worked downtown. Then our work locations changed, so those chance meetings didn't happen so often. And, of course, this was at a time before we were using e-mail to stay in touch.

In the fall of 1990, as I've written earlier, I for all intents and purposes wound up moving back to my hometown to take care of my mother. I am a member of the UNC-CH Alumni Association, so I changed my address to get the publications at Mother's home. And the December 1990 one had some truly bad news for me. In the obituary column, there was Wendy's name. The notice said she had died in July. I thought of how sad this was for her parents. I had met them and was quite fond of them, though I had not seen them in several years.

As with JohnDoe, I was embarrassed that I hadn't known of the death to write to her family when it happened. And since I was still reading the Chapel Hill-area newspapers daily, I wondered how I had missed the obituary that I thought surely would have been published. But I remembered the JohnDoe story, and decided I would try to find out if Wendy really was dead before I wrote. I was coming back to the Chapel Hill area in January for a bit, and decided I'd call Wendy.

Good idea, but when I tried calling her home number, I got a recording that the number was no longer in service. I took that to mean the obituary in the alumni publication was really true. And I started agonizing in earnest over what to say to her parents.

Looking back, I wish I had tried to call her office, too. But since I didn't know her coworkers, I wouldn't have known how to phrase the question. And after the call to her home number, I was pretty sure the obituary I had read was indeed accurate.

I decided since time had already passed, I would let a little more go by, and aimed toward Easter for getting a note written. I worked on that note in my mind long before I sat down to write. One thing I'm glad I included in the note was how I learned of her death.

Several days later, I got a lovely note from her father, thanking me for my kind words, but saying he was mystified by the whole thing, since he was delighted to tell me Wendy was alive and well and moving into her new house. He asked if I still had the obituary, and if I would send it to him.

I was delighted to find out that she was alive, and utterly provoked with the Alumni Association. I did send her dad the notice, and told him that another death had been reported in error a few years earlier. He wrote back rather soon and told me what Wendy had said about how the association got the news.

I wrote to thank him. And I got in touch with the alumni people and told them they needed to rethink how they did obituaries---that they should maybe go with more than returned mail. I don't know if that did a bit of good, because they haven't announced the death of any friend I didn't already know was dead since that time.

And the next time I was in Chapel Hill, I did get in touch with Wendy. In fact, we've been much better about staying in touch.

Oh---if any of you want to get an alumni association off your case, please just declare yourself moved with no forwarding address. Those no-address things rarely get added to the alumni news columns. But dead is really hard on your friends.

Text © copyright 2000-2001 Becky