it was an ordinary weekday. we were talking about our ideas for landscaping our front & back yards. we really want to build a fence between us & the only neighbor behind us that doesn’t already have their own fence up. not because we don’t like that neighbor, but because their yard is really ugly. i commented that we actually like jim pretty well. shaun replied, “jim died two months ago.”
my brain has been a little fuzzy lately. between being a new momma & battling a sinus infection & allergies that are exacerbating my fibromyalgia, remembering things is not one of my strong points lately. so, i racked my mind a minute before i was sure i didn’t know this yet.
“what?” i sputtered.
“yeah, he passed away a couple months ago from cancer.”
i knew jim had had cancer, but his treatments had been going pretty well. that was the last i knew anyway. how dated was my information? i realized i hadn’t personally spoken to jim in at least a year, maybe longer. shaun’s the one who really talks regularly to our neighbors. i’m good friends with our neighbors across the street from us — a sweet older couple who are retired farmers & an older woman who has lived in that house for over 40 years. but i don’t talk to the ones behind us or down the hill from us much. okay, at all. i don’t even know the name of our “next-door neighbor” down the hill. i’ve felt bad about that before. but not enough to do anything about it.
[as i sat here typing this, i kid you not, one of our neighbors from across the street walked over to deliver a plate of strawberries they grew. oh, the irony.]
back to the story at hand: that time i didn’t know my neighbor died. i was shocked from the news of his passing. turns out one of his sons [the “good” one] is living in the house now. i clearly haven’t met him yet. shaun has. that’s how he learned about jim. two months ago.
i’m ashamed of myself for not knowing that my neighbor no longer lives behind me & no longer lives. i claim to be a christian, & if i am serious about that claim, then i am serious about following Jesus & His way. it was Jesus who said, “‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, & all your mind.’ this is the first & greatest commandment. a second is equally important: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ the entire law & all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” [matthew 22:37-40, nlt, emphasis mine].
i don’t know about you, but i want people to notice when i die, to care, to miss me. i want people to notice me while i’m alive, too… if i am to love my neighbor as myself & as i want to be loved by others, i must notice them, know them, care for them. and while every person i meet is my “neighbor,” my actual geographical neighbors are most definitely my neighbors! and if i am to follow Jesus, i must notice them, know them, & care for them. i don’t want another neighbor to die “on my watch” without me having any idea. i want — i need — to cultivate relationships with them. i remember when jim first got cancer a few years ago, i thought i should take him a meal. i didn’t. i’m pretty sure that was a prompting of the Holy Spirit that i ignored. i don’t want to make that same mistake again. i want to follow Christ & love my neighbors. after all, that is how i best show God that i love Him. and it is how i best show the world the love of Christ for all people. for them.
so what am i going to do? well, first i’m going to make some cookies & take them to my neighbors. the ones across the street. and the ones behind me. and the ones down the hill. it’s about time i met them all.