Once upon a time, I worked in a phone survey place. After two days, I was "promoted" to editor since it was clear I had skills in this area...and I was a cute girl who smiled a lot at the boss. Make that a cute, SMART girl! Because doing the surveys was a total drag, man. A few days after that, I was made supervisor and put in charge of interviewing, phones, collating data, and, still, editing. Yeah, they had a turnover problem. Anywho, one day a guy came in, we interviewed him, hired him, and told him to report a few days later. That day arrived, and he was a no-show. A few days later, he called to say his sister had died and he had attended the funeral so of course he'd been unable to report as planned. We were very sorry and told him to come in in a few days.
And that might have been the end of the story. However, I had recognized this guy as the son of a man who had worked with my father when I was growing up, a man with whom our family was close, so of course I was upset to hear about his sister's death. Ours was a very, VERY close-knit community, and I knew my father would want to know, so I called and told him the news. He was shocked and immediately started calling around to our old network to see if we could get some more details and if we could help. However, it turned out it was hard to get in touch with the family, and no one he spoke to seemed to have heard of the tragic event. Finally, it turned out that both this guy's sisters were alive and well. Indeed, his father was very upset to hear that the son had been, umm, claiming otherwise, to put it delicately.
The guy never showed back up to work. Draw your own conclusions.
I am reminded of this story whenever I teach. Every single semester and every summer term, I can't count the number of grandparents, aunts, uncles, or best friends' best friends who "die." Students show up with these tragic tales, and you can't claim they're lying because, well, what if they aren't?? So you have to accept what they tell you and move on. But seriously, if this many people are dying, no one should ever send their children to college. It's FATAL! The only bright side is summer session. When these students disappear during summer sessions and then reappear, they have always missed too much to make it up, and so you have to break the news to them that, in addition to the tragedy, they have now flunked your class. Funny thing is, no matter how often I do this, and I do it often, the students never seem all that broken up about the F or the death. Go figure!