Sunday, January 21, 2007


Last Tuesday, I bumped into my old next-door neighbor while shopping for laundry detergent at Wal-Mart. She and I hadn't seen each other in well over a year, and we swapped small talk about the holidays and the after-holidays and how well each of our respective families are doing. She noted that she saw we had painted our house and really loved the new color. I laughed about how my husband and I so clearly remember the summer that she and her husband painted their house themselves, and how we remembered all of their hard work and how it inspired us to hire painters instead of doing it ourselves. She laughed. We discussed the merits of a clear glass bowl she was picking out that I had purchased myself last Christmas as part of a gift I made for someone. It was a nice ten minute catch-up chat, and I left the store smiling and glad I'd bumped into her.

A little over 24 hours after that meeting, my old next-door neighbor's eldest son was killed in a tragic work-place accident. He was only 26 years old.

To say that I'm sick is an understatement. Tears keep springing into my eyes at the slightest provocation. I don't know how many hours I laid awake on Thursday night, after I'd learned of the news and details, thinking about the family and the young man who was such a great person and who will now never get to experience so many of life's joys and moments.

Mostly, I keep thinking of my old next-door neighbor and wondering how she will ever be able to go on. How she will ever be able to smile again, or to bump into an old friend at the Wal-Mart and say that her family is doing well, that things are going fine. The idea of losing one of my own children is so upsetting to me that my brain can't even process the concept.

And I can't stop thinking about how fast things can change. I keep turning over in my mind the fact that I saw this woman on the very last day that her life was as perfect as it now probably will ever be, neither one of us having any inkling of how shattered her world would become in so near of a future. I keep wishing I could just go back to those moments standing in the Wal-Mart, wanting so badly to know then what I know now so I could warn her so she could keep this from happening. Tell her son to stay home from work on that day. To not go on that slippery roof. To just sit in a chair with his hands folded and not move for a very long while.

But I can't. I can't undo things. I can't see forward to know what might happen tomorrow that could shatter my own world or that of someone that I care about. I've never felt so powerless.

The viewing is this afternoon, and both my husband and I are dreading the experience. He's been as shaken by this as I have. He remembers an afternoon seven or so years ago when he was moving a mountain of mulch into our back yard when this young man saw him hard at work, went inside to get his father, and the two of them pitched in to help my husband with his job. They were wonderful neighbors. Good friends. We regretted leaving them behind when we moved across town.

I don't know what I'm going so say to this couple. What I can possibly say to express how badly I feel about what's happened. I won't even pretend that anything I say can make things even a microcosm better for them. I'm hoping that just our being there tells them that we ache for them. That we are crying, too.

I'm grieving.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

That's tragic. Nobody can make it all better in a situation like that. You just have to have faith that your presence brings some measure of small comfort.

I'm sorry for your loss, too. They lost a son, but you've also lost someone you knew, someone from your lives.

Andrew (To Love, Honor, and Dismay)