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Monday, September 16, 2013

A Lonely Life and Death

On October 22, 2012 the deadly Hurricane Sandy swept through the Eastern United States.  Five months later, on April 5, 2013, 62-year-old Keith Lancaster was found dead due to drowning in his “tiny construction trailer” (Caruso, and Pearson).  No one had thought to check inside the trailer for a body because “the lot where Lancaster’s trailer sat has been vacant for many years” (Caruso, and Pearson).  People in the area “described Lancaster as a loner” who “didn’t talk a lot” (Caruso, and Pearson).  Sadly, “he had never been reported missing” and when he was found, “no one stepped forward to claim his body from the morgue” (Caruso, and Pearson).  Gerald Sylvester and his wife, Carrie Vaughan, claim that Lancaster occasionally did house and yard work for them; he even “mended their fence and once fixed an outdoor light...but he always refused any money for his help” (Caruso, and Pearson).  He worked for others but had no expectation of payment for his toils.  Sadly, since he seemed to have no close friends or family, Lancaster died alone and isolated.  This quiet man’s mysterious, laborious, and private life parallels that of the wife in Sherwood Anderson’s short story, “Death in the Woods.” 
The peculiar old wife of Jake Grimes was an outcast and a loner; she “knew no one. No one ever talked to her in town,” but “she had got in the habit of silence anyway” (Anderson 167).  She worked hard every day to serve and “to feed animal life” with no personal benefit, just like Lancaster (Anderson 174).  This unnamed woman “didn’t mind much…whatever happened she never said anything.  That was her way of getting along” (Anderson 168).  On a snowy winter night, with four “gaunt” dogs walking behind her, the old woman trudged home with groceries on her back (Anderson 169).  When she made it to a clearing in the path she decided, “to rest at the foot of a tree” (Anderson 169).  It is unknown whether or not she is aware that this choice would be the last she would make in life, but either way, “the old woman died softly and quietly” (Anderson 170).  “A day or two later” the townspeople found her, but “at the time no one knew who she was” (Anderson 171-172).  Although “she was recognized the next day,” what became of her body is undisclosed.  Just like Lancaster, the wife was an outsider in the world.  Unfortunately, unaccompanied death—without support of close friends and family—was the heartbreaking outcome for both of these people.

Anderson, Sherwood. “Death in the Wood.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin Group. 163-174. Print.

Caruso, David B., and Jake Pearson. "Keith Lancaster, New York City Sandy Victim, Found Dead Months After Storm." Huffington Post [New York, NY] 27 June 2013, n. pag. Web. 15 Sep. 2013.

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