At the risk of stating the obvious I’d just like to say that it’s not everyday you hear of someone receiving his or her death certificate in the mail. Notice I didn’t say the death certificate of a loved one, but rather their very own death certificate. However, that’s exactly what happened to a good friend of mine two weeks ago.
I remember with crystal clarity the phone call I received the afternoon of the day he found it in his mailbox. His voice alternated between incredulity and anger.
“Can you believe this shit? I mean it even looks like the real thing. The paper, the envelope, it seems to have come from the Bureau of Statistics. Who would pull such a gruesome prank?”
I told him I had no idea, but that he should probably take it to the department it came from and perhaps they could get to the bottom of it. He did that very thing the following day, only to be told that they had no record of it, that it hadn’t come from them and that he should show it to the police right away.
This he did. It came as no surprise to me to hear that they weren’t interested and they didn’t have time to follow up on practical jokes. He was still angry with the whole matter when he called me the next day. I asked him if he was sure it was an official document. He told me they had examined it at the Bureau of Statistics and that it was the very same form they used for such things.
I told him I had no idea what he could do about it if the police were unconcerned but the next day I found myself still mulling the matter over. I gave him a call, curious about some details.
“Nigel, Phillip here. About that death certificate, have you looked it over carefully? Do they have all your details in order?”
“Yes, they do. The birthday is right, it’s got me residing at my current address, the names of my parents, my wife, everything.”
I was hesitant to ask my next question, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.
“Nigel…what is the date of death?”
“Well that’s the kicker. It says I’m going to die at 2:36 a.m. May 14th.”
I felt my mouth go dry. Somebody had a twisted sense of humour.
“Nigel, that’s tomorrow. Tonight, really.”
“Yeah, I know. Good luck getting to sleep tonight, right? I’ve got an important meeting tomorrow, I think I better take a sleeping pill to make sure I get enough rest.”
We talked a bit more and I told him to be well and then hung up. I felt like kicking myself. Be well? What kind of thing was that to say to a man who had received his death certificate in the mail? I decided I was being foolish and put the matter out of my mind. As sure as the sun would rise tomorrow Nigel would be hale and hardy and life would go on. Whoever the sick bastard was who had played this macabre joke on him would move on to other things and the world would keep turning.
Thus it was that when I received a call from his wife Marjorie the next morning I was in a state of shock by the time I hung up the phone. When she awoke that morning and tried to wake Nigel to get ready for work she found him dead.
Part 2 Tomorrow