|My neighbor died the other day. I can't really say anything about her because I didn't know her. We were neighbors for fifteen years (she was the wife of the banker that lived on the other side of me)and I had never been in their house. Sometimes, we would exchange waves if we saw each other out back or I might glimpse her at the mailbox as I drove past. I know she fed the stray cats that seemed to multiply like crazy every few months.
I saw her husband more often. He had a real nice riding lawn mower (Cub Cadet) and I couldn't help but watch him as he mowed. I have a thing about riding lawn mowers. He's come over to the house once or twice to offer assistance when I was trying to get out of the driveway after an ice storm. He thought I was nuts trying to drive 30 miles to work on a sheet of ice. But, you know the old post office motto: Neither through sleet, snow or blah, blah, blah shall deter us from our duty and I always arrived in one piece.
When I heard the news of her passing several thoughts passed through my mind. First, I was sorry for the family, and second, I was glad it wasn't someone in my family. Then I wondered if I should go to visitation, send flowers, or take over food. I'm not sure if I would even be recognized in dress clothes or not...not that it mattered.
After sleeping on it I decided I would go to the visitation. It seemed like the neighborly thing to do. When I pulled up to the facility for visitation I noticed my neighbor's name on the marquee. You see, when you utilize this particular funeral home they put your name up in lights outside on a large sign. I used to think this was strange but I've driven passed several times and wondered who they had and all I had to do was look at the sign.
I was a little apprehensive as I walked up the steps. What do I say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if everyone wonders who I am? What if everyone knows who I am and wonders why I came? Why didn't I just send some flowers? Maybe I shouldn't have worn pants? Does my hair look okay? Will I know anyone? I hope I don't know anybody. I'll just sign the book and leave.
I walked into Chapel D and immediately saw my neighbor. He was wearing a dark suit and was seated on a stool beside his wife's coffin. He looked beaten and haggard, had dark circles under his eyes and glanced at me with a look of surprise.
I was behind a lady who obviously was a family friend. I listened as they traded small talk about how long it had been since they had seen one another. How what a nice lady she was. How she loved crossword puzzles and loved to bake. He had tried to get her to go places at times but she always seemed content at home. She had a relatively new car and had only put 2500 miles on it in the last 3 years. She went to the Piggly Wiggly every Sunday after church and bought the week's groceries.
As the lady drifted away it was my turn to offer my condolences. He thanked me several times for coming and I commented on who was now going to feed the cats. He gave a small chuckle and said he didn't know but he had fed them this morning. My neighbor said his wife loved feeding those cats even though they were strays. It gave her great joy.
I had learned more about that nice lady in the last five minutes than I had known for the previous 15 years. Don't worry about your strays friend, I'll make sure they get fed. After all, it's the neighborly thing to do...