Monday morning as I was pulling out of my driveway I saw my next door neighbor standing at the end of her driveway. I stopped and rolled down my window to say hello since I hardly ever see her. With a house full of teenagers and a full time job she is a busy woman. Little did I know that less than 48 hours later we would get to know each other in a way that neither of us will ever forget.
Wednesday morning at about 8a.m. I heard someone screaming for help. I went outside and over to my neighbor's garage. My neighbor was crying for help and a bunch of construction workers who heard her calls for help were standing around my neighbor's husband who was laying on the floor of the garage. I realized what was going on and I dropped to my knees and began performing CPR. My neighbor was crying and I was working hard and praying hard. It seemed like it was taking forever for the paramedics to arrive. Suddenly, out of nowhere, another neighbor appeared and took over with the CPR and I assisted. The paramedics arrived shortly after and my other neighbor and I sat down just outside the garage with our sobbing friend. It was so heartbreaking and terrible. I held my friend as she sobbed. The paramedics worked and worked. There was no movement coming from her husband. The police and paramedics people came over and asked questions. My friend told them that her husband, who was only 42, went to the garage at 6:30a.m. to lift weights. Her husband was very tall (6'8") and fit. When she went to leave for work a little before 8 she found him lying there on the cement floor.
My one neighbor took the other neighbor to the hospital and I stayed at the house where their teenagers were still soundly asleep. The youngest in the house woke up and was peering out the windows at all the police cars and eventually came out. I told her that her mom had gone with her dad to the hospital. She started crying and I put my arms around her as she cried on her front porch. I wanted so badly to tell her that her dad was going to be fine, but I knew that he had probably already passed away even before anyone knew that he had fallen down.
CSI came and took pictures of the garage. Thank goodness the 13-year-old didn't realize what that meant. Neighbors started stopping and asking what was going on. The construction workers on the corner sat in a glum silence looking over wondering what was going on.
I was trying to stall. I took the 13-year-old over to my house to make some french toast. She kept saying that she knew her dad was going to be ok. I kept giving her hugs. Before the first piece of french toast was ready I got the call confirming that her dad had passed away. We kept making the french toast and I didn't say anything.
Cars started appearing in front of their home. My dear neighbor friend returned from the hospital and the daughter who had been at my house was summoned. I knew what they were going to tell her, and I couldn't imagine the pain she was about to feel.
Neighbors stopped at my house. We talked about what we could do to help and of our memories of our neighbor who had passed on. He was a great dad and very dedicated to his work; he and his wife both worked for the Department of Family and Child Services. He had frequently shoveled my driveway in the winter. He was highly involved with his children's schools.
He would be dearly missed.
My stomach was in knots. I felt numb. I kept seeing his lifeless face in my head. I could smell his aftershave and the detergent his clothes had been washed in. I kept thinking of how I kept hoping desperately for his body to come alive.
I didn't cry, and I went to bed early.
This morning I was mowing the lawn and the 13-year old daughter came over. I stopped the mower and we embraced for a long time. And then I finally cried.
I told her I was so, so sorry and that I couldn't imagine what she was going through. I told her what Talmage had told me yesterday when I told him what happened. He said, "I think he is having fun at Jesus' house."
That made her smile. Which made me smile. She told me that so many people she didn't know had been coming over to their house and that she was tired of hugging strangers. I told her she could camp out on my couch and watch movies anytime.
Later today I was trying to rest and there was a light knock at the door. I thought it was probably Sydney and Talmage's friend wanting them to play. They were with their dad so I almost didn't answer. But it wasn't who I thought it was. It was my dear neighbor. We embraced for a long time. She told me that she knew God had sent me to her, that I had been an angel to her in her darkest hour.
We talked. We cried. We embraced.
And now, neither of us will ever again be just neighbors waving from our driveways, living our separate lives. We are connected in a way that can't be forgotten.
On Monday when I greeted her from my car I would never have called out "I love you!" We barely knew each other. But as she walked away this evening, I said, "I love you", and I meant it.
I am still waiting for the rest of the crying to come. The sobbing. Because I know it is in there, it just hasn't come out yet.
I am left feeling gratitude for life. Gratitude for my loved ones. I am left thinking of the fragility and beauty of life.
I am left feeling deeply humbled. So humbled to know that I, little, highly imperfect me, could be made an instrument in the hands of God to comfort one of His beloved daughters in a moment of desperate need.
This makes me want to live so that I can serve Him. It helps me realize once again that with God, my efforts are magnified a hundred fold.