“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”Haruki Murakami
I search Namus and doenetwork databases on a semi-regular basis. It’s morbid, but I’m looking for someone. While looking for him, I’ve found so many others. People who have died and have not been claimed. Or people who are missing in action and have not been found. There are more than most people can really imagine.
One case that has stuck with me over the years is a lady I call Christmas Tree Lady. Her story pops into the back of my head out of nowhere. I’ll go months without thinking about her, and then when I’m most happy and most carefree, I’ll see her in my head and feel a twinge of guilt thinking about fucking lonely she must have been.
In the summer of 2009 I was house sitting in Arizona I was living by myself in almost complete solitude. I passed the time online looking at missing persons and or unidentified people cases. I was knee deep in the story of Lyle Stevik, but Christmas Tree Lady was also in rotation.
“She must feel as awkward as Arizona…”
I grew up in Northern Michigan. I’m used to pine trees and snowy winters. I love the bleak grey skies of a winter afternoon. I love the snow falling at night and coating the branches of the trees. Over to the left; that’s home. That’s where I feel comfortable. That’s what I love. There is a certain comfort in that kind of desolation.
That’s what I imagine the evening December 18th, 1996 looked like in Annandale Virginia. I have no way to corroborate that, it’s just in my head.
an unidentified woman entered the Pleasant Valley Memorial Park Cemetery in Annandale Virginia, it had to be evening as no one witnessed this, she made her way to a section reserved for dead infants, she laid down a tarp, swallowed some Valium with some brandy, put on some headphones, covered her head with a plastic bag, and suffocated herself. Her body was found the next morning by a groundskeeper.
She had left two notes with her and $100. One note said;
“Deceased by own hand, prefer no autopsy. Please order cremation with funds provided. Thank you, Jane Doe.”
She called herself Jane Doe. No one. She chose that for herself. What’s weird to me and probably people who worked the case is that over the next few months absolutely no one came forward to say someone in their life was missing. She was approximately 50-60 years old; it’s hard to live that long and have not a single soul notice your absence. Flyers were put up all over town, and no one recognized her. No one said; ‘hey she was my neighbor, or my school teacher, or hey she used to stop here and get lunch everyday…’ I understand being a hermit. I’m slowly becoming one myself. But I like to think if I disappeared someone would recognize my face on a flyer or notice my absence. How does no one know who she is? How do you get to the point that you are so content with your own suicide that you plan for it to take place in a cemetery and you even have money to cover the whole thing? Why didn’t she just put a gun in her mouth and pull the trigger? It would have been easier, quicker, and more efficient. That’s how guys do it.
She brought with her a small Christmas tree that she had decorated and some comedy tapes to listen to. I do like her idea of going out laughing.
I’ve followed a lot of these cases over the years. Hers has been tested against over 200 nation wide possibilities and not a single match. She is a no one. Her case will more than likely never be solved. It’s too far gone now and there never was much to go on to begin with.
I don’t know why I feel such a deep connection to her case. There are a few others as well, but hers hangs heavy on my mind sometimes. I have so many people that love me. If I don’t answer my phone for more than 3 days (that happens often) it starts blowing up with ‘are you ok?’ ‘miss ya’ ‘hope you’re well’ or once I just didn’t get online for about two weeks and my inbox was flooded, some people I hardly even knew….all wondering about me. What happened to her could never happen to me. Yet I fear it greatly.
The second note;
“Now I lay me down to sleep, soon to drift off to the eternal deep. And though I die, I shall not wake. Sleep sweeter will be than this life I forsake.”