My father and I attended the funeral of a longtime neighbor today. Mac was “elderly”, but his death had come quickly and rather unexpectedly. He was like an uncle to me and the last time I saw him he was full of life. I’ve known him my whole life and he lived just two houses down from my parents for at least forty years. Their whole neighborhood is practically this way and it makes for an extended family that we’ve all enjoyed for many years.
Mac’s brother, Larry lives next door to my parents. Larry’s daughter and I have been best friends since my birth in 1974. He and my dad have been friends since way before that. In fact, he was my father’s best man at his wedding. He’s like a second father to me.
That’s the way it was in my neighborhood growing up. We all knew one another, the adults all cared for each other’s children and the children all played together – no matter our ages. I’m one of the youngest from the neighborhood, but I was never left out. Many of the adults babysat me or I played in their homes over the years with one child or another. We were all one big family really. I count each of them as siblings.
When one of us didn’t come home in time the phone chain began and soon we were sent home. Every single adult became our parental guidance and we never got away with anything. I easily had at least 4 sets of parents growing up. And they are still there for me today if I need it. There was even one relationship that formed from our neighborhood – Mac’s daughter and her fiance Keith. She died last year before they ever married, but Keith is still considered part of their family… and of our neighborhood. He received just as many hugs today.
Now the children are becoming the care givers and guidance in many situations and watching as, one by one, the adults we looked up to over the years get older and eventually pass away. Our neighborhood seems to be dying off.
Today I saw many old friends that I only see now mostly on Facebook. It was bittersweet, but we only seem to see each other now in person when there is a death. Our lives have all taken different paths, but one thing still brings us together – home. So our neighborhood remains – even when we aren’t in homes next to one another anymore. We still count each other as neighbors, friends, relatives.
There was talk today about who was missing, how they were doing, and who might be “next.” There were a lot of canes, thick prescription glasses and also stronger, younger arms holding those weaker and less steady.
There were a lot of hugs, a lot of genuine care and concern and a lot of love.
Mac was a Christian and I know I’ll see him again someday. I can’t wait really to see his smiling face and hear his booming laugh. He always had a good-natured spirit here on earth – I can only imagine how hearty his laugh will be in heaven when all the sorrow of this world is past.
Maybe one day we’ll all form one big neighborhood in heaven too and just keep this “family” going for eons to come.