I live in a semi detached house. Paul, my neighbor was a very private person. He had his issues like everyone else. He didn’t take me long to realize his issue was alcohol. At over 80 years of age, he carried himself well despite his circumstance. One of my conversations revealed he became an alcoholic through his appreciation for gardening. He did have a well tended garden.
Paul lived alone and the only guests that come visiting were the postman and the grocery delivery guys. Most mornings I would see him taking his dog for a walk and occasionally, I would see him in his garden enjoying the sun. Once I even saw him crying and he tried to assure me all was well. But I bet it was a reflective moment.
My fear for Paul was God forbid if anything should happen to him, it could take days before we ever know and that was exactly what happened. It was during his cremation service, which I attended together with few other neighbors, that I realized he had a daughter, a son in law, an ex-wife, an ex girlfriend (who lived with him before the breakup) a brother and a grandchild. That about sums up the total number of family members that attended the funeral service plus four neighbors.
On the other side of things, I attended Sister Julie’s funeral service years ago, she died at the age of 45. When I got back home, I couldn’t sleep . My head was muddled up at the turn of events. The mood was with me all through the next day as well. I couldn’t believe we had just buried someone so dear and precious. The atmosphere in the room was celebration. It made me understand what it means by a celebration of life. Her Husband, Uncle Paddy was going around, asking everyone if they were alright. Her two teenage children going around asking; Auntie, are you okay ? and dancing to the song “sweet mother I no go forget you”. Friends were laughing and teasing each other on who can speak better pidgin English.
The following day was Sunday and people came up testifying in church as we had a thanksgiving service for her. It was beautiful. My reflections were on the funeral and the party at home afterwards.The testimonies of her neighbors,who find her praying time soothing. The video guy who was recording guests as they say their tribute, who came to church and wanted to be a part of such a family.
Often times, I would reflect on these two people, the 80 year old man who died lonely and as a cranky person .Even the flower pot he tended and used to separate the two houses was eventually knocked down and used for the fireplace by someone else. The 45 year old woman, who died of cancer after fighting for many years, who touched so many lives in spite of her pain, whose funeral robbed me of sleep as it was a celebration of life and made me think this is how I would want to be celebrated when I am gone.
The difference between the two from CRADLE to GRAVE is “the gap in between”. What did they spend those times doing. Self or Selfless, Gathering or Giving, Building or Breaking?
The time will come, when we all will answer that final call. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, strong or weak, sick or healthy. It won’t really matter because it is another necessary step in our growth process. What matters is what you did in between.
Yes, it is time for self evaluation and I say:
ThAT’s JuSt THe WaY It iS