Short answer: Nothing.
Two years ago I was in Tel Aviv.
Three years ago I went to a posh party post soup kitchen.
Tomorrow night a quiet drink with a friend or two and then home long before midnight.
We have turned into a grim Puritanical society. Instead of the scold's bridle, we have social media, which serves the same purpose--shame and expose. Instead of actual rotting fruit, virtual rotting ones.
There is grimness all over. I just have to leave my apartment and head down the hall. I pass Nancy's door. Still taped shut. Still a sheaf of flowers by the door. I appreciate the need to commemorate--still, I would rather find out how to host a shiva or a wake. I donated money to HIAS. Because that's what Jews do.
Even if we held a wake, there would be no body, of course. I heard that due to the decomposition, she had to be identified via dental records.
The days are quite mild--one could purchase a few comestibles and place them on a picnic table. Many people knew Nancy and are angry that management claims they made a "wellness" check that could never have occurred.
And dying alone in the apartment. A very common female death here.
Many years ago, Dr. Stella Chess, an elderly psychiatrist who worked in her research lab at NYU until almost her final moment, did not show up. Her assistants called her apartment. No answer. They went to her apartment. No response. They convinced the super to open up her door. And found her. She died a night or two before. She was clad in her nightgown, in her bed.
A few weeks earlier, in the Bronx, a tenant complained about maggots falling from her ceiling. The super went into the apartment above, and found a dead woman, shot by her lover. The body, rotting.
Everyone dies alone. In NYC, very alone.
One of my friends once told me she didn't want to get another cat, because she knew it would outlive her and probably start to eat her before her body was found. I said, "Well, let's hope it would find you delicious." Although if Nancy had a pet, it would have whined and cried in the apartment. Surely someone would have come in to check if that had happened.
Even if you die with others, you die alone. Years ago, one of my supervisors (Dr. Judith Caligor) was returning with her husband, Dr. Leo Caligor, from their home in the country. Their car was in an accident. They both died. Similarly, John Nash (he of the beautiful mind) and his wife. Joan Rivers--died with endoscopy tubes down her, suffocating. While the nurses smiled and posed for selfies, oblvious of her needs.
My uncle Ibngebber, died on an operating table.
My mother's father died alone in the hospital, given a poisoned transfusion.
Too many people die waiting to be seen in the ER. At King's Country, the guards just stepped over the corpses in a famous caught on CCTV moment.
Then, of course, you have just the ordinary horror--a cab driver found dead in his parked cab. A smoker who died alone of a subarachnoid hemorrhage and wasn't missed for days. All the junkies who drop dead in the streets of NYC.
Years ago, when I was a baby psychologist training at a psychoanalytic institute, I was walking down E.70th Street. I was en-route to interview a potential supervisor. A medium height, medium weight man was a few paces ahead of me. Suddenly, he collapsed. Several people called 911. Someone stopped, lifted up his eyelids, said he was dead, and continued. I watched as the corpse's skin changed to a purplish brown. Shortly thereafter, the EMT's came and I continued to the interview. The supervisor was only slightly better than the corpse. I did not choose her.
That's one thing Plath never mentioned--dying is done alone. She claimed it to be an art. There is no art to it. Even she, who put a towel against the door to protect her toddlers before she turned up the gas. And poet Thomas, in a horrific car accident, how do you fight against the dying of the light? I imagine you just pray for the pain to end. Or, as Hemingway said, you imagine when the pain gets too bad, you will lose consciousness.
When I was lying helpless on the bike path after my accident, waiting and waiting for the ambulance, in horrific pain, I never passed out. And I never felt so alone. Unless it was in the ER, where I awaited evaluation for over 28 hours.
Well, what can you do. There are no other options so you have to pick life.