During dark nights of the soul, people often mention that their prayers feel like they are bouncing off the ceiling, unable to slip through the fibers of paint and dry wall — or in my case, concrete. I am not experiencing a dark night of the soul, but I am finding myself pondering my ceiling, wondering if any of my prayers drift up into the apartment above mine. I did not know the name of my upstairs neighbor until today, many hours after she was found dead on the street below after falling from her 7th story window. The police have called it an apparent suicide, although news reports indicate an autopsy will be conducted.
The woman was young — in her mid 30s. Her next door neighbor says that she was quiet and kept to herself, although she was friendly and liked dogs. Another building resident commented that no one seemed to know her.
For months she slept about 12 feet above my bed, cooked in a kitchen directly above mine, lived life in a place that was designed exactly like mine. And somewhere in the midst of what we call a community — and in many real ways, those in our building are a community — this woman was lost. Unknown. Hidden.
Another neighbor and friend held a prayer service for her this afternoon. We named her, mourned her, prayed for her family. Across hallways and facebook, we voice our responsibility to each other — our common humanity and artistry. We vow to care and be community. I hope we do.
Tonight I’m haunted by the fact that the apartment above mine still looks like a home (or so I imagine). Its rooms await a woman who will not return. I can’t help but wonder what I would have heard had we been in our own home last night instead of housesitting across town. While I don’t wish the sounds or images on anyone, something within me hopes that someone was there to witness her last moments, to be with her in some way in her horrific end.
Dear neighbor, may you find peace. May your name be called in a way more meaningful than you experienced here on earth.
Read more from Jennifer Harris Dault at her blog.