The wail of sirens grew louder by the minute. As the sound grew closer, it roused me from my distracted state.
What is happening?
I opened the front door and glanced outside to see two fire trucks in front of our neighbor’s house, a mere two doors down.
No, not the neighbor with colon cancer!
Sympathetic neighbors were gathering to show solidarity while respecting the medics. A neighbor who is a nurse started walking towards them while calling for her daughter to bring her face mask.
Before we left for Spain last fall, we had seen our neighbor, looking frail and gaunt. He was trying to walk down the block and back with his wife of many years.
They had glanced at one another, then at us.
“We envy your trip to Spain. We wish we could…” and his voice trailed off.
They had the very normal, happy, expectant someday-plans that we all have.
Their sons were raised and they wanted to work a few more years, then sell the big house. They had talked of moving to Florida.
With great medical care and a will to live, we knew they would do whatever they could to fight this. We expressed our sympathy and good wishes.
Tearfully, I looked at my husband later that night and said,
“Now…while we can. We aren’t waiting until we’re 70 to take the trip.”
He had nodded in solemn agreement.
This could have been me or my husband or anyone, but it was our neighbor.
We didn’t know him well but he seemed like a genuinely kind, humble, gracious man.
Those who knew him well loved his quick, irreverent wit and willingness to help.
His wife was lying on her front lawn in a state of shock, staring up at the sky.
I was standing barefooted on my own lawn until I couldn’t anymore. Our neighbor was not coming out. The medics weren’t carrying him out. An ambulance arrived and no one did anything.
I realized he must be gone and couldn’t just watch her suffer while her sons stood by in shock and silence. I walked over in a daze to hug her sons, then her.
A police officer politely stood over her from a distance.
“I’m very sorry ma’am…”
He was so polite and respectful.
“There is nothing more we can do. The medical examiner is inside and we ask that everyone remain outside while he finishes his job.”
Then he asked if funeral arrangements had been made or if she needed assistance with that.
She said her husband had spoken with their Pastor recently and she would notify the Church.
I told her how sorry I was, that we are only two doors down, and will support her any way we can.
Other neighbors nodded while murmuring about meals, cash, gift cards, and household help.
I’m so sorry…
What an utterly inadequate thing to say.
It’s true, though.
I am sorry.
I am sorry for him and for her and their sons.
I am sorry for all of us. We know neither the hour nor the manner in which we will pass. It could be anyone at any time and we must live with this knowledge at all times.
I am sorry for all of the pain and suffering in this world, especially when it is caused by me or my fellow human beings.
In the midst of life’s sorrows that seem too many and too much to hold,
In the precarious balance of life and death,
Let’s wish him and his and us and ours, all collectively…
Joy, impossible as that may seem in a moment like this.
Yes, joy, and peace, and love.
And all that out-there stuff that is subjective and intangible yet means everything.
May we find it in the simple, sweet, routine places.
May we find it in our own hearts then give it away.
I hope that he died free of pain and fear, knowing his life mattered and that he made a difference. Even though his years were fewer than wished for, I hope his life was rich in moments and in love.
No matter how many or how few years we have, it’s only a blink in time. We have to make peace with this somehow and believe that it is enough.
And that we will accomplish whatever it is we came here to accomplish.
When we leave this physical suit behind for other stars, may we leave with no regrets.
Let’s Live Now with No Regrets.