Finding the Next of Kin

The Oregonian has done an excellent article on what happens to dead people when no one claims them for burial, or if they can find no one. It includes profiles of several unclaimed dead who, contrary to popular belief, usually have their identity known, and aren’t always homeless or without family or friends.

Andrew O’Hagan writes a bit about this in The Missing, a book I have a short review of on Charley’s recommended books page. He talked about the sort of lengths the Brits (this is written by a British man, not an American) go to find the next of kin. I guess they have longer than ten days to look, unlike the people in Oregon. I think he wrote about one guy who died in his apartment and he didn’t seem to have any indication whatsoever of anyone close to him, and the investigator looked all over the place and finally found a decades-old address book with a phone number in it that turned out to be still current. It was the dead man’s ex-wife’s sister or something like that. So somebody finally got to be notified he had died, though I doubt the ex-wife and her family were willing to take possession of the body and pay for the funeral. Saddest of all were the cases O’Hagan wrote about where people died and it took months or years for anyone to notice. One woman died, apparently of natural causes, watching TV in her apartment. She lived alone, was retired and apparently had no friends or relatives she was in regular contact with. Her pension checks were direct-deposited into her bank account each week, and her landlord and the electric company and things billed the account electronically, so no one noticed anything amiss for ages.

Getting back to the Oregonian article — I agree with the commenters below the article. It seems like they ought to have longer than ten days to find someone. I understand that med schools need bodies (they used to actually have to rob graves to get them, back in the day, and no one wants the situation to reach that point again) and I understand that the police and coroners and stuff have a lot of demands on their time and can’t spend forever chasing down relatives of a dead person where the case has been closed and everything. But if it were my mom or someone who got donated to a medical school and then cremated because they never found anyone to notify she had died, I would be pretty upset. I also had a case on Charley where a man was listed as missing for like over ten years, when in fact he had died of natural causes in a hospital in the same city around the same time he disappeared, and he was identified, but the coroner’s office forgot to notify his mom, and the police never connected the dots either, and he was years in a potter’s field before anyone realized the mistake. *headdesk* That kind of thing needs to be avoided whenever possible. Deaths in the family are bad enough without those kind of complications.

Meaghan’s Own How-to-Identify-a-Frenemy Quiz

(A frenemy, by the way, is someone who pretends to be your friend but is actually your enemy.)

I created this self-help quiz for myself to identify destructive relationships, of which I’ve had too many in my life. I have trouble recognizing frenemies when I see them, and I have trouble breaking it off after I realize this relationship isn’t good for me. It’s blown up in my face a lot, most recently in November, when a woman I’d known for ten years, who had called me her “best friend” only a few days before this, wrote a vicious open letter to me on her blog where she violated my privacy by detailing my medical issues and other private things for the whole world to see, posted bits of my writing out of context and without my permission to demonstrate what a “sick person” I was, and said a lot of horrible things about me, a lot of which were not even true, and what was true was very distorted and twisted around to make it look a lot worse than it really was.


There had been warning signs, in retrospect. There are always warning signs. Every time this happens, afterwards I think, “My god, it’s obvious X was psycho and/or treated me like garbage. Why didn’t I notice this sooner?” But then it happens again. I need stop making excuses for people (“yes, he is mean to me, but he’s been under a lot of stress lately and…”) and I need to stop hanging out with people I don’t even like just because I feel sorry for them or because I don’t have anyone else to be with.

It occurs to me that others may benefit from this quiz as well, so here goes:

1. Do you like this person? If yes, please continue. If not, stop the quiz and end the relationship right now; you’re wasting your time and theirs.
2. Does this person sometimes treat you in a hostile or abusive manner without sufficient reason? If yes, two points.
3. Does this person usually treat you in a way that makes you feel liked and respected, and without putting you down? If no, three points.
4. Do you look forward to hanging out with this person, and enjoy spending time with them? If no, one point.
5. Is this person the sort that will never, ever admit they are wrong? If yes, one point.
6. Does this person have a tendency towards irrational behavior and jumping to conclusions? If yes, one point.
7. Have you noticed that this person treats other people badly or harbors bad feelings towards them for no good reason? If yes, one point.

If you scored zero, your relationship is quite safe and healthy.
If you scored one to three points, your friend may be a frenemy or may become one. Consider distancing yourself from this person or ceasing contact with them altogether. How much are you really getting out of this friendship?
If you scored more than three points, you’ve definitely got a frenemy on your hands. You should end the relationship ASAP and don’t look back.

The aforementioned young woman would have scored at least a five on this, maybe higher. But since I never really liked her that much to begin with — she liked me a lot more than I liked her — that alone should have been sufficient reason to break it off with her. I can be a real idiot sometimes.

Any thoughts on this quiz? Any ideas for improvement? I have decided that avoiding destructive relationships is vital for my psychological health.