I just read this story on CNN.com, about a 70-year-old man in Hampton Bays, New York, who died of natural causes in his home a year ago -- and nobody noticed. Until a water pipe burst, no one realized he had died. Neighbors assumed that the man, who was diabetic and blind, was in hospital or in a long-term treatment facility. This touches on a couple of human tragedies, I think. The idea of dying alone and having no one notice is a particularly terrible fate. It pains me to think of how lonely this man's life must have been before death in order to be able to disappear and not be missed by anyone.
Then there's the whole issue of loss of relationships with neighbors. No one talks to their neighbors anymore. Everyone's so concerned about their privacy and keeping to themselves. In St. Louis, we had a good relationship with only one set of neighbors who would certainly have noticed if we disappeared. Here, even in what seems like idyllic Ann Arbor, we know none of our immediate neighbors. Thank God our landlord would notice if the rent check didn't arrive.