Our neighborhood watch had nothing to do with crime. We were standing by for death. Beloved neighbor Ron had a running battle with COPD, one he knew he was not going to win. His wife Amy let us know from time to time when he had a setback. Each time he bounced back, but never as high as he had been before. We were used to seeing him on the porch, tethered by a tube to a concentrator to help him breathe. It was a pleasure to stop by and chat with him. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great storyteller in the old Southern tradition.
We hadn’t seen Ron on the porch for over a week. When John spotted a red emergency truck leaving, he called Amy. She explained that Ron was slipping into a coma, and the end was near. The closest three households were in contact, keeping each other up to date. We were all praying for Ron and his whole family.
Two days later Amy sent a text, “He has gone home.”
I couldn’t speak, but I showed John the screen. Ron was at peace, no longer struggling for every breath of air. He died at home, exactly where he wanted to be at the end, surrounded by his family. Amy texted, “It was so beautiful and peaceful. We were singing and praying with all of us at his side.”
Highest accolades go to Amy. She didn’t complain about caring for Ron. When we moved here a year ago, she was free to come and go. Gradually her errands were shorter, and she no longer went to church. She was tethered, not by a tube, but by love. Ron urged her to go out, knowing outside contact was good for her. Several times she did and was recalled quickly when Ron had an emergency. Amy fulfilled her marriage vows beautifully on a daily basis. She lives her faith, and I stand in awe of her.
Is there a funny side to death? No, but there are amusing things that happen. John saw the comings and goings in the street as he sat at his computer. I refrained from looking too often, because that smacked of peering around the curtains. I didn’t want a self-label of nosy neighbor. A car from the funeral parlor parked in the drive. At that time, John asked about our dinner plans.
I said, “If you were a subtle person, I’d think you were trying to get me away from the front window.”
He looked at me quizzically. I said, “Because you know I’d be itching to take a picture. I usually take photos of big events.”
I wouldn’t blame him if he rolled his eyes. For the record, I took no pictures. It brought back a telephone conversation I had with the executor of my dad’s estate. Margaret said, “Garner picked up your dad from the hospital.”
I thought, how nice of him to pick Dad up and take him home. Of course I was dead wrong. I suddenly realized Garner was the name of the funeral home. Duh!!! Dad was no longer alive, and he was not going back to his home. Talk about the speed of stupid! It’s slower than you think.
As John and I ate on the back porch, I saw the big black vehicle drive up the street.
My heart said, “Goodbye, Ron. I loved knowing you, and I will miss you. I’ll be here if Amy needs me. See you soon.”