A lesson from a neighbor's death
by Ed Wendell
Aug 15, 2018 | 3028 views | 0 0 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Theresa Barraz (center, striped shirt) with neighbors in Woodhaven.
Theresa Barraz (center, striped shirt) with neighbors in Woodhaven.
A few weeks ago I brought you the story of Theresa Barraz, a resident of Woodhaven and a member of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, who passed away and lay undiscovered in her home for months.

Because no family members were ever located and there was no money for a funeral, the Historical Society claimed Barraz and has paid for cremation and a memorial service.

It will take place on Thursday, August 23, from 7 to 8 p.m. at NF Walker Funeral Home (87-34 80th Street). Afterwards, we will all go to Neir’s Tavern (just a block away at 87-48 78th Street) where we will have some food laid out.

Theresa Barraz may have died alone, but we hope you will all join us so that she will not be remembered that way.

We are extremely grateful to Paul and Annmarie Rudolph of Walker Funeral Home and Loycent Gordon of Neir’s Tavern. When they read about what happened to Theresa, they all reached out and gave us tremendous discounts to make this memorial possible.

Sadly, what happened to Theresa is not an isolated incident. Here is a question that I’d like you to ask yourself: If you fell at home or became incapacitated, how long would it be before you were missed? How long would it be before someone came looking for you?

If the answer is more than one day, you are in danger. For the longer you are on the ground or incapacitated, your condition will rapidly worsen.

With this in mind, we’ve been talking to the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association to come up with ideas for a program that could help people who live alone and aren’t in daily communication with friends or family. We should have more information on that by next week.

Another lesson we’ve learned from what happened to Theresa is just how little we know about each other. At our first WCHS meeting after she was discovered, almost none of our members knew Theresa by name. She had been regularly attending meetings for about five years so they all knew her face, but not her name.

So here’s another question for you: Do you know your next door neighbor’s name? How about your neighbor from across the street that you’ve seen nearly every day for the past few years? Or how about the lady who lives down the hall from you, the one you pass by and say hello to every day?

The next time you go to a local meeting of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association or Historical Society, look around the room at all the faces you’ve become so familiar with. How many of them you can name?

The Bible says we should “Love Thy Neighbor,” but how can we love our neighbors if we don’t even know their name?

Maybe we should encourage ourselves to “Know Thy Neighbor” first.

It can start with a smile and a wave, a simple act that will be returned in kind. And once you are comfortable with that, go ahead and introduce yourself.

A lot of people might not feel comfortable doing that or wouldn’t know what to say, so why not try something like this: “Hi, we see each other almost every day and it just occurred to me that we don’t know each other’s name. My name is…”

What a tremendous step forward it would be for our community if everyone took two minutes to introduce themselves to just one neighbor. If we could all do that it would make what happened to Theresa a little easier to accept.

Speaking of getting to know your neighbors, the next meeting of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association will take place this Saturday at noon at Emanuel United Church of Christ (91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard). Come out and start to know thy neighbors.

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