“A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad. “

Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, 590 A.D.



Lila Ann Smith died just a few days beyond her ninety-eighth birthday in

August 1979. She was the oldest resident at The Meadows extended care facility at

Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I was activities director.

She had been widowed in each of two marriages that had produced no

children; also, Lila had no known relatives or friends, at least those who survived

her. The management arranged her funeral and disposition. Only a few people

attended her memorial service; I represented The Meadows, though I would have

surely gone anyway.

When I came on staff the year before, she was in full dotage and didn’t know

individual employees at all. Records show she had been placed in The Meadows by

a Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Winters in 1969 when she was eighty-eight. Under the section

marked “connection with client,” the Winterses simply checked “friends.” Their

contact address proved years out of date and subsequent efforts to locate them

were unsuccessful.

So, when Lila Ann died, her unclaimed estate, such as it was, became my

concern—one of those unwanted duties activities directors seem to inherit.

Her belongings were few, and it was while sorting through them, I came

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