alone across time

January 25, 2014 marked the eighth anniversary of the discovery of 38-year old Joyce Carol Vincent’s skeletal remains. Vincent, an ex Ernst & Young employee, was found dead in her bedsit in Wood Green, North London on January 25, 2006 with her television set still playing. What makes this story incredible is not that she died–everyone dies–but that she was dead in her bedsit for nearly three years before an unanswered eviction notice eventually led authorities to her sparse remains. Vincent, who was of Caribbean and Indian descent, was known for her love of singing. Yet, no eyebrows were raised when she no longer frequented the places she’d often go to share her talents.

Vincent was said to be a victim of domestic abuse, which was one possible impetus for her sojourn in the bedsit, a flat managed by the Metropolitan Housing Trust. She didn’t drink or take drugs, leading most to believe she did not die of alcohol poisoning nor drug overdose. Because of how badly she had decomposed, finding the actual cause of her death was virtually impossible. Coroners could only speculate that she died of natural causes. Identification of her body was done by comparing photos of her smiling to her remaining teeth.

It is assumed that Vincent died in December of 2003 given that all around her lay unopened Christmas presents. During that same time, neighbors recall a foul odor, yet no one reported it, nor thought it terribly strange. Vincent lived amidst approximately one hundred other apartments above a bustling shopping center.

She had the honor of meeting Ben E. King, Gil Scott-Heron, Betty Wright and Nelson Mandela.

Eight years later, no one will ever know why or how Vincent could die alone without anyone even showing a modicum of concern for her whereabouts. Has the culture become so disconnected that we no longer care? Are families so disconnected that a mother, sister, brother or cousin is the same as a stranger? Or was Vincent so dissociated from friends and family, maybe even life, that she pushed everyone away to the point of apathy? She sat for three years decomposing. We are eight years removed from this event. Yet, one can’t help but wonder, could this one day be me?

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