Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RIP my neighbor

I have a really annoying "gift" that I have intuitions of what is going to happen in the future. I have spent my entire life writing off these flashes of insight into the future as "being neurotic" or "worrying" but it's always different when it happens - it is always completely without emotion when I will think of things before they happen.  Sadly, I had one of those thoughts a few days ago when we got to Arizona. It flashed through my mind, "What if our neighbor dies before we get home?"  but it was more of "Our neighbor is going to die before we get home."  Part of me really wishes that hadn't been true, but then again, part of me is relieved for him because he did not get to the point of great suffering before he died.  And that in itself is a gift.  Although, it breaks my heart for his family, friends and wife he had to leave behind.

When we first moved in last year we didn't know who the neighbors on that side were.  The neighbor on the other side of us came over and introduced herself when the moving trucks were there.  But the other side neighbors seemed like they had their own thing going on and we never saw them, and when we did get a glimpse of them they were rushing off somewhere and I swear the husband looked at me like I was some evil interloper into the neighborhood (turns out I totally misinterpreted that look).  So, I named them "The Spies" because I didn't know there name and that was the story I liked for why we never saw them except briefly.  They were international spies and needed to keep their cover.

Sometime last summer I met the wife outside and we got talking about gardening.  Then I met her husband and it turned out we had a lot in common.  They were trying to get pregnant and had all sorts of neat plans and they were very sweet to our daughter and seemed very charmed by her.  They even put up one of her drawings on their fridge.  A few times the wife confided in me that she was concerned about her husband's "depression" but it sounded like he was dealing with it and seeing a counselor.  Until one day she came over and told me something horrible - the depression wasn't actually depression after all.  Her instincts told her that he needed to see a neurologist and tests showed he had stage 4 brain cancer.  The same thing my friend Terrell died from almost three years ago.  It was like a nightmare for them, I'm sure.  But they've handled it with so much grace and it was inspiring how the wife instantly switched gears and became his full-time advocate and caretaker.

The last time I saw him was the day before we left.  He'd been left with a hospice worker while the wife ran some errands and had apparently gotten disoriented and decided to go out and ask the neighbors if they knew where his wife was.  He and my other next door neighbor rang my doorbell and when he asked where his wife was I knew something was wrong because she wouldn't leave him alone. I saw the hospice worker standing on their front porch and I called over to her and asked her name and asked who she was.  When she said she was with hospice and I said, "Can you come over and walk him back home?" and she said, "Not right now, I'm on the phone with the office," and I got so angry! So, I asked the husband if he'd hold my hand and walked him back over to his house in my t-shirt and slippers in the rain because I was worried about him wandering around in the rain.  I'm glad I did now because I was able to say to him that no matter what happened we'd always be next door if he needed us and he can always come to us for help.  I may not have been able to say good-bye but I'm glad he knew that our family cares about him.  It's very sad though, I was all set to sit down with the wife when we got home and tell her how mad I was at the incompetent hospice worker and help her find a better one, and now that's not necessary anymore.

It's my absolute biggest fear is that I will lose my husband or my daughter out of the blue like that.  I've had a lot of friends die in my life - including two "best friends" - but it never gets easier with practice.  In fact when Terrell died I went into the same withdrawn "hide away in my cave and lick my wounds and everyone leave me alone" state of mind that I went into when I was 27 and my close friend, Todd died.  There was no "coping with it in a healthier fashion" going on even though I was ten years older and had gone through tons of therapy and was supposedly so much more mature.  I reacted exactly the same way.

I didn't know my neighbor very well which is a loss for me because he seemed pretty great from the little I knew about him.  Hopefully, the wife and I will remain friends for years to come.  Still, the world definitely feels like it's missing a little something now that he's moved on in his journey.  I have a feeling he left a lot of gifts for all the people he loved though.  I don't mean material gifts, I mean parts of himself.  When Terrell died I had a strange experience where I realized the day after that I felt just a little less afraid.  It was almost like instead of giving me money, or property or some material item, when she died she gave me some of her courage.  Right before she died she gave me a bracelet and whenever I feel insecure about doing something I wear that bracelet - I call it my "adventure bracelet" and it reminds me of the courage she left me because she didn't need it anymore.  I imagine John had a lot of gifts like that to leave to the people left here.

My husband really hates "young country music" so he'll just have to skip this link - but this is my Terrell song and I've made a point of trying to live by it for the last two and a half years.

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