The Lonely Death of George Bell

While I normally passively scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, an article posted by a high school friend caught my eye. The article, entitled “The Lonely Death of George Bell,” discussed just what one would assume—the lonely death of George Bell, a 72-year-old New Yorker.

Unlike most deaths, the death of George Bell went unnoticed. It was not until neighbors complained of a rotting smell, that police discovered Bell’s decomposing body amidst the many belongings that filled his overwhelmingly cluttered apartment. Despite many efforts to identify and contact Bell’s next of kin, no one came forth and his body remained in the Queens Hospital Morgue for months until further investigation was done. Without any family or friends to make arrangements for Bell’s home, belongings, and funeral, the tasks fell upon the office of the Queens Country public administrators.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Although a lengthy read, this article recounts the stories of all those who helped put Bell to rest when no one else was there to. From the public investigators who spent hours cleaning out this man’s apartment to the funeral director and undertaker who were the only ones to bid him farewell, each story touches on different aspects of death and subsequently life. With each story a piece of George Bell’s life comes to light and readers learns details of this man’s life and why it may have come to a lonely end.

“Yet death even in such forlorn form can cause a surprising amount of activity. Sometimes, along the way, a life’s secrets are revealed.”

While it was not an uplifting read, the writing in this piece beautifully articulate death and its vexing emotions. This article forced me to reflect on my life and my bonds and friendships with others. I encourage you all to read this article as well. I could not help but wonder what may be discovered about my life after I pass. Though Bell’s life had come to an end, through the efforts of investigators its details were unfolded and we see that, “[death] closes doors but also opens them.”

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Josh Haner/The New York Times

2 responses to “The Lonely Death of George Bell

  1. I loved this article! It truly is amazing how many people and organizations are involved when a person dies. On TV and in movies, the entire affair seems to be taken care of in a matter of days, sometimes hours. In George Bell’s case, it took years to settle the situation.
    I thought it was particularly painful when the few people he had mentioned in his will admitted that they barely knew him or hadn’t spoken to him in decades. It must be incredibly painful for these people to realize that this person who has just died considered them worthy of receiving his money/possessions when they in turn barely thought of him.
    I agree that it’s not at all an uplifting article, but how amazing is it that this piece was written about him at all? I mean, his body wasn’t even identified for several months and now he’s the star of an article in one of the most widely read newspapers in the world. It’s fascinating how people’s lives become more or less important only after their death, as in the case of Mr. Bell.
    But perhaps most worrying is that this article was even written at all. What would he think if his personal affairs were put on display for the whole world to see?

  2. This is an excellently written article about a man, that despite his loneliness was a decent and a respectful person. It’s not disrespectful that his entire life and death came to public view. It is rather, a testament of his existence; a memorial if you will.
    I will not get into the question wether the loner George would approve of this article. After all he is dead.
    Instead, what I read in this great piece is just this:
    George Bell was here, and despite his problems lived his life with decency and respect.
    May rest in peace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *