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This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

a lovely light

Please forgive the poor writing, if it is disjointed, or if it isn't making as much sense as it should, but I need to tell you something.

There's something to be said about having really good neighbors. I'm not saying I'm one (although I hope I am), but I'd like to say a few words about a particularly great neighbor that I've had for the past handful of years.

The first time we spoke in the front yard, I invited her to come over to burn stuff (food, marshmallows, etc.) in my fire pit while we get to know each other. She kindly declined because she had movie watching plans or something with her husband, but offered to get us some logs from her family's farm for sitting on around the fire the next time she had the chance. And next thing I knew, we had four or five new seats, which have been used time and again over the years. (We only have two of them left now, actually. I'm pretty sure the others met with destiny by the hand of a certain teenage boy and an axe, and flames.).

Then, we would see each other at church or out in our front yards, say hello or give a wave. Nothing big. Just being neighborly. She'd ask me how I'm doing, and I'd ask how she was faring with her little one, and then her other little one came along too. We walked to the park nearby a couple times to walk and talk. I will never forget the deeply loving conversation we had over at that park when her father died. I felt like I was able to be a true friend to her finally.

A few summers ago, one of my brothers came to visit for a week, and he would go out in the backyard to practice his tuba. Yes, he'd blast tuba music in my backyard. Awesome, right? The next time she saw me after that, she asked who was playing back there. That's what opened up our neighborly conversations about music and her bass playing, which, in a couple years after that, led to her playing in a string quartet last year accompanying the church choir that I directed. I told her (and the other musicians) repeatedly how thankful I was for their addition to our performance with such talent. And then—we performed. It was so beautiful.

Now at Christmas, when songs were being sung and talks were being given, I remembered the Christmas and Easter musical delights she participated in and felt deep gratitude that we had all taken the opportunity to get together to worship God through such beautiful music. The memory overwhelmed me, and I missed her so much so that I cried a little for wanting her there again in church with all of us.

My beautiful, talented, loving, straight-talking neighbor has been sick. She fell ill last year, and has been fighting for her life. We still had occasional chats in the front yard, but it was always on her front steps now. She'd listen to me go on and on, and she'd laugh. I don't know why I'd do it, but I would get to philosophizing on how jacked up life can get in such a funny way that we would both have a good laugh even when talking about messed up stuff like divorces and cancer. So ridiculous, but somehow it cut through the pain of it all for me on those days. I can only hope it did some of the same for her.

When trying to figure out what we could do to help her family, we were able to informally arrange for my son to mow their front lawn as a service this past summer. I only had to force him to do it the first time. After finishing up that day, he came into the house and told me that it felt nice to help our neighbors. She ended up paying him in baked goods for his birthday and on another occasion, but for the most part, he did that all summer because it made him happy to do it. I'm especially grateful now because I know my children saw that example from their brother of how to love people and just help when they need you.

And now she has left us. But she didn't leave us without giving a gift.

When facing the reality of leaving her sweet family behind while they finish out mortality, she clung even more fervently to hope and the light of Christ. I won't ever forget that. She has shown me what a true testimony of Christ looks like. She gave my children a lovely example of what a good neighbor looks like, and we all sure love her and her entire family. What a blessing it has been to have shared in the light she emitted—to offer her what little we could. Love is an action word, and my neighbor understood that fact. My love and prayers will always be with her dear husband and children and her extended family.

As I ponder it all, I am stung by the truthful reminder of how short our time is together with our loved ones. No matter how long or short the life, it never seems to be enough time. I am reminded that I need to express more love to those I hold dear, and I intend to do so as often as possible (without making a nuisance of myself, hopefully!) and not just through words.

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