Saturday, July 12, 2008

Life is too short not to know your neighbors

Life throws curveballs at you from time to time. There's really no way to determine when it's coming either. You just have to adjust and go with the flow.

My wife and I bought our house in 2003. We live in a nice neighborhood (not swanky), but nice meaning nice neighbors, good place to raise kids, etc. Society is not what it used to be where neighbors were best friends, shared sugar, shoveled each others driveways, etc. With that said, my neighborhood is sort of old school. It reminds me how my parents described their neighborhoods. Needless to say, we've gotten to know our neighbors in the five plus years we've been in the house.

For the past month, one of our neighbors has been sick. His family from around the country has been visiting and staying at the house. One day we got wind that he was on his death bed. This was about a month ago, maybe more. He has some sort of cancer as well as other complications. About two weeks ago, they read him his last rights - two weeks ago. The guy was fighting it and wasn't ready to go.

Over the past couple weeks, we've talked to the family members, asked how Ed was holding up, etc. The story always got worse, but he was still fighting it. He wasn't ready to die. As you'd talk to the family, you could see the stress in their eyes, the sadness in their words and the overall grief that they knew was eventually coming.

This leads me to last night. We had some company over the house for an impromptu BBQ (always the best kind). Company consisted of my brother, his wife, my wife's aunt and uncle. One of Ed's son's was on the back porch as my company and I were hanging out in my back yard. We cordially invited him over. One thing leads to another and he ends up coming over, with a family friend, his two nephews and their niece. All of a sudden, this starts to turn into a barn burner. The beers are flowing. The Johnny Walker black comes out. Stogies are being torched. It's a good one. However, the tone is reflective. The family members, specifically the son, talked about his dad, how wonderful he was, etc. It was really sad to see. You felt for them.

During the night, the family friend was called quickly into the house. All the family members ran in. Fifteen or so minutes later, they come back out. Ed had passed, but the family friend, who is a fire fighter, brought him back with CPR. Needless to say, the son was beside himself. "What a trip," he said (he's sort of a hippie looking dude).

The night rolls on and things are getting worse next door. One of the sisters calls the family back because they don't think Ed is going to last any longer. The hospice nurse is called and she arrives quickly. One by one, each family member goes into the house and, from what we can tell, they say their goodbyes.

Now, I can't confirm that Ed has passed away, but I'm 99% sure that he did. No one is hanging outside in the backyard. Lot's of people have been coming and going. We were in the backyard until 3 a.m. last night and didn't see any activity. It must have happened later this morning.

My point to this story is that the family seemed to have a great time with us. They were laughing, telling us stories about Ed and really enjoying themselves. I'm feel really good that I was able to provide a glimpse of relief to this family who has been struggling with the inevitable. It was a pleasure to get to know Ed's family last night/this morning. The way they handled themselves last night - in the face of what was happening right next store - is a testament to Ed and his wife (who passed 10 years ago I guess).

So folks, when you're out in the backyard, cutting the lawn, taking out the trash, picking up your mail...take the time to talk to your neighbors. Get to know them. It's the right thing to do because you never know when you might make an impact in their lives or when you might be the one they turn to for help or just to talk.

I'd like to think that if the shoe was on the other foot, someone would invite me over for a glass of Johnny Walker black.


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