Several years ago, an older lady and her husband moved into my neighborhood.
They kept pretty much to themselves and soon earned the description “unfriendly.”
‘They won’t speak,’ one neighbor told me.
‘They’re not very neighborly,’ said another.
I’m ashamed to admit we were judging prematurely. For the husband was ill — terminally ill, to be exact — and the wife was his only caregiver.
She didn’t have time for over-the-fence gossip sessions. Or chatting on the phone. Or inviting other ladies in for coffee.
About the only time she left the house was to get groceries or transport her husband to a doctor’s appointment.
I know first hand what that’s like, how stressful full-time care giving can be. Especially for someone untrained in that area, someone who doesn’t choose to be a caregiver. Someone like my mom, who was Daddy’s only caregiver because he refused to have strangers in the house.
Life takes on a different appearance when you’re faced with a loved one’s grave illness. Besides the ever-present cloud of death, there are medical specialists to deal with. And procedures. And pain. And fear and worry.
The upside is you have a chance to bond, to spend quality time reminiscing, to selflessly give to another in imitation of the way God has given to us.
Earlier this month, my neighbor’s husband finally succumbed to his illness. True to form, he didn’t want any notice to appear in the daily newspaper, didn’t want to bother anybody. Most of us found out by word of mouth.
But did we convene on this poor woman’s porch, casseroles in hand, to mourn with her? No, we opted to “respect her privacy,” to give her time to grieve.
Taking the easy way out.
Was it the right thing to do?
Probably not. People need each other, and I for one felt great comfort by the kind, sympathetic things people did for us after Daddy passed on. We should have done the same for this woman.
I saw her the other day, and she’d gotten a little dog. Someone to take for walks, keep her company, and amuse her with its antics.
We chatted a bit, and she didn’t seem at all “unfriendly.”
Just lonely. And still grieving.
She’ll be that way for a while, but at least she’s trying. Can her neighbors afford not to try, too?