Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A Neighbor Passes Away and Almost Nobody Notices

Many years ago we built a house in a developing subdivision. Over the next several years we were joined by a number of new neighbors. The days of newly installed yards are long gone and nowadays the neighborhood is flush with mature trees, seasoned fences, and cracked driveways. Some of the original homeowners (including us) still live in the neighborhood. G was one of those original inhabitants — until recently, when she made the final move from this world.

G and her best friend T came into our lives when they moved into a home near us, along with T's adopted twin daughters. Although not particularly religious, T had tried to talk a pregnant young woman out of aborting her baby. The young woman finally agreed, on the condition that T would adopt the baby — something that had not been on T's list of things she planned to do in life. But she felt strongly enough about choosing life for the child that she agreed to the adoption.

A short time later it was discovered that the young mother was carrying twins. T was suddenly going to be saddled with two children instead of one. T called her lifelong friend G asking what she was going to do. Eventually the two formulated a plan where they would buy a home together and work together to raise the girls.

At the time that T and G moved in, the girls were a year or so older than our oldest child. There were approximately a thousand kids under age 10 in the neighborhood back in those days. Or at least it seemed that way. Toddlers roamed the subdivision in packs. G always exercised great concern about the neighborhood kids. If you heard a kid nearby bawling, maybe from scraping a knee, you could be sure that G would be one of the first adults to attend to the child. Our kids were frequent visitors to T's and G's place and the twins were frequent visitors to our place.

As the girls got older, T and G advanced in their respective careers. When the girls were in high school, finances were such that T could afford to move to her own home. G bought out T's part of the home in our neighborhood. The girls split their time between T's and G's places, but continued to attend the local high school until they graduated. As the girls advanced into adulthood and started forays into living on their own, we saw less and less of them.

Despite her concern for children, G could be somewhat abrasive. More than one neighbor had run-ins with G. But she always treated our family like gold. When G's health began to fail a few years ago, our family started clearing snow from her driveway and walks. In fact, we kind of took over that chore, an activity for which G frequently expressed gratitude. G had a riding lawn mower that allowed her to continue to care for her lawn during the warmer months.

Eventually G took a medical retirement because she simply couldn't do her job effectively anymore. As G's health issues worsened, she mostly confined herself to her house, so we saw less and less of her. Her sister and brother-in-law frequently helped. But since they lived a few miles away, G always felt comfortable calling us and relying on us for assistance.

A few weeks ago, my wife returned from a visit to G, saying that G was in pretty bad shape. One of the neighbors and I soon paid a visit. Although she was not Mormon, she asked us to give her a priesthood blessing. We gladly obliged. The main thing I felt inspired to say was that she would soon get some relief from her challenges.

A couple of days later, I noticed that my wife was making a batch of cheesy potatoes. Around here the dish is commonly called funeral potatoes. I guess this stems from the fact that the dish is frequently served at family gatherings following funerals. Although this is a beloved dish in our family, we don't make it very often — usually only for holidays or funerals.

When I queried my wife as to why she was making funeral potatoes, she said that G had mentioned to her how much she would like to have some. The thought that she ought to make a batch kept coming to her over the next couple of days until she suddenly had a sense of urgency about it.

G's sister answered the door when my wife took the potato dish over to G's. The sister later reported that, although, G hadn't had much of an appetite, she got a fork and ate some right then while it was hot. The following morning while she was chatting with a family friend, G put her head down as if she needed to rest and then breathed her final breath.

We were among the first alerted by G's sister, who expressed gratitude for all of the years we had been good neighbors to G. But the sister explained that, in accordance with G's wishes, there would be no obituary or funeral. A few days before passing, G had even asked my wife to keep her death quiet in the neighborhood when it happened. She didn't want to burden anyone.

Many neighbors have no idea that G is no longer with us. Her home looks the same for now. She had rarely been seen outside during the past few months anyway. And yet, every time I look at the house, I feel a sense of loss. I'm glad that G's years of pain and physical challenges are over. But I still feel like something is missing.

While my wife promised not to broadcast G's death, I made no such promise. It seems somehow wrong for a neighbor to pass away while the rest of us in the neighborhood go on about our lives as if nothing has happened — as if her life didn't mean anything. She might not have been the easiest person in the world to associate with, but G still played a valuable role in the lives of my family members. She was among the ingredients that made up the recipe for our neighborhood — a recipe that will now be forever changed.

Although not religiously observant, G was a woman of faith. I wish her well in her new surroundings.

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