This week our neighbor died. We used to live exactly across the street from him but now we live around the corner. He was one of the first people to know our children and I had the privilege of watching his children turn into adults.
He daughter was our babysitter, and his son was the produce manager at my local market, his wife teaches at the kids’ school and it brings me joy to see her each day. During the last eleven years I looked forward to bumping into my neighbor, we would have nice chats about our families. I always left him feeling a little lighter, happier.
He died unexpectedly, there was no illness or injury that I know of. His widow has asked for privacy and I want to respect that.
I bought an African Violet and a condolence card. I left both of these things on her front doorstep, but only after keeping them in my house for almost two days.
For two days the African Violet sat by my front door and the card was next to it. The card was empty, now that I think about it I may have forgotten to remove the price tag from the plant. I thought about what to write. “With love from,” didn’t seem like enough but too much seemed like too much in an totally inexplicable way.
I decided to write a note to the three of them and tell them how their father and husband had touched my life. Handwriting is extraordinarily difficult for me as arthritis has taken much of the function from the first two fingers on my right hand.
Part of me hopes that the Violet lives as long as her grief, another part of me hopes she smashes it into the bottom of a trash can.
So now I’m crying and trying to write and trying to not make a mistake because I only have one condolence card and condolence cards are among the most horrible of all cards. They say too much and they say the wrong thing.
I was sad that my neighbor died, no doubt. I love the family he left behind, but we weren’t very close, he and I. What was scary, what terrified me (and perhaps others) was that he died at the wrong time. He was supposed to be there for his daughter’s wedding and his son’s graduations. He was supposed to grow old with his wife and tend to their grandchildren. He was supposed to be in the driveway when I walked the dog and we were supposed to chat too long making us both very late. He was supposed to always be there as that nice but quiet man with the really great family.
There’s this hole in the neighborhood and I don’t have very good words to describe it.