Life is often cruel. It’s not a complaint or a lament, just a statement of fact.
The Associated Press yesterday reported a gruesome but true story of a four-year-old New Jersey boy trapped in an apartment.
That’s not the worst of the bad news.
His recently-diseased mother was also found in the home.
That’s still not the worst.
The woman was estimated to have been dead for five days.
I cannot wrap my mind around a situation in which a person would be forced to exist in the same dwelling with someone who had passed away, especially for more than a few hours. I’m not frightened by those who are no longer alive…but I was raised that when something dies, you get it out of wherever it is and put it in the ground.
The story says sanitation workers were drawn to the home by the awful stench coming from it. I’m sure that after five days, to be polite, the mother wasn’t looking her best.
I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the same house with a stranger who was dead for five days–certainly not someone I was acquainted with, a loved one or family member.
Here’s full story, as reported by the Associated Press’ Samantha Henry (this more complete version was found on the WRAL.com news site):
UNION, N.J. — A naked, malnourished 4-year-old boy found inside an apartment with the body of his mother, dead for days, had resorted to eating from a bag of sugar and weighed only 26 pounds, well below normal, police said Wednesday as adoption offers poured in from around the world.
The boy’s first request after being examined, police said, was a grilled cheese sandwich and a juice.
His mother, identified Wednesday as Kiana Workman, 38, of New York City’s Brooklyn borough, was discovered dead Tuesday on the floor of her bedroom after maintenance workers at the apartment complex in northern New Jersey reported a foul odor. Because the chain lock was on, police said, the toddler couldn’t get out.
Officer Joseph Sauer said the boy was naked but coherent and not crying when he kicked in the door and his partner lifted the youngster up by the arms and pulled him out of the overheated apartment.
“The only way to describe the little boy was it was like a scene from World War II, from a concentration camp, he was that skinny. I mean, you could see all his bones,” Sauer told The Associated Press.
The apartment in this city 15 miles west of New York belongs to Workman’s mother, who is recuperating from surgery at a nursing center, said police, who could not track down any other relatives.
The boy, now in state custody, remained in a hospital where he was being treated for malnourishment and dehydration, police said.
“Physically, he’s fine. Whether there are any mental problems later on … I’m not a child expert,” Police Director Daniel Zieser said.
The boy was not strong enough to open the refrigerator and was unable to open a can of soup. Police said he told them he had been eating from a bag of sugar.
The boy could not say how long his mother had been dead.
Police said he put lotion on his mother, leaving behind handprints, in an attempt to help her.
Officer Sylvia Dimenna, who traveled in the ambulance with the boy and stayed with him at the hospital, said he was very bright and articulate but tired.
“He said he missed his mommy,” she said.
Police initially estimated she had been dead five days before the discovery was made, but Zieser said Wednesday it may have been two to three. Nobody had talked to her for about a week.
The boy weighed 26 pounds, but at the age of 4½ should have weighed 40 pounds or more, Zieser said.
“It’s possible he was improperly cared for before the mother’s death; we just don’t know yet,” Zieser said.
Autopsy results that would help them better determine the time of death were pending. Police said they did not suspect foul play.
Police said they were getting calls from around the world from people offering to adopt the child or donate money or toys.
“It’s overwhelming,” Zieser said.
“I just hope everything works out for the child,” the police director said. “We’re just going to take it one step at a time and do the best that we can for the child.”
Police said they were trying to find someone in the family capable of taking care of the boy, including a brother of Workman believed to live out West. But he said it would be up to the state’s child welfare agency to determine where the child is placed.
Zieser described the apartment complex as a well-maintained property with few problems.
But he said everyone there “basically stays to themselves.”
If you believe in prayer, please say one tonight for that little boy. Who knows what he endured in that timespan…did he have to witness his mother’s passing? Was it at best quick and painless? What were his thoughts? Did he fear that he too was going to die?
Say a prayer to ease whatever terrible thoughts and memories he has within his mind, that they don’t carry through his childhood and into his adolescent and adult life.
Most of us hope we never have to, and cannot begin to imagine the experience he had. Ask for the same for him.