Last Friday my next door neighbor, Mary, died. She was not in the greatest of health and was (I think) in her nineties, so her death came as no surprise.
Mary was the only neighbor in my whole neighborhood that I even knew. Odd considering other neighbors have children, and are closer to my age. Truth be told, she was the only neighbor that ever took the time to say hello and introduce herself. Most of the time I tried to ignore Mary. She was old and odd and spoke too loudly and was always trying to give me stuff. She reminded me too much of my own grandma who was old and passed away not long after meeting Mary. Mary was an inconvenience in my day. When you did stop to talk she would keep you FOREVER. I never felt I had the time to talk to Mary.
Somewhere during the last four years I made a decision to love Mary. I read Joyce Meyer's Love Revolution and made the decision to really LOVE Mary. It wasn't easy. It required me to step out of my comfort zone. I started off slowly. I would get Mary's paper and put it on her doorstep in the mornings. I would not ring the bell, I would toss it on her porch and practically run back to my house. I wasn't ready for an hour long conversation every morning. Eventually though, I started taking time to talk to Mary. Now and then I would see her outside and rather than drive my car into the garage and shut the door before getting out of the car, I would stop and say hi. Occasionally I went over to her house to check on her. While I was there I would ask her questions about her life, her family, her interests. I got to know Mary. Slowly, but surely I liked her.
I started feeling more and more guilty the more I got to know her. She was a pretty great lady. Not unlike my grandma who I cherished. Independent, business owner, devoted wife, loyal sister, and trusted friend. Mary never had a shortage of visitors. People came to visit Mary all the time. I met her brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and in recent days her caretakers. Everyone seemed to love Mary. I realized I missed a chance to spend time with someone I had really grown to like.
Mary's death has given me a little perspective. Helped me to realize a few things about myself and hopefully taught me not to make the same mistakes again.
Love your neighbor. We are commanded by God to love our neighbors. Not love the neighbors who are lovable, but love your neighbor whoever that might be. Love is an action and we need to be showing our neighbors we LOVE them.
Don't wait to tell someone about the love of Jesus Christ. I always thought it would be better to have a relationship with Mary before talking to her about Jesus. I never got around to asking her the most important question. And now I won't know until I get to heaven. I had the chance and I didn't take it.
Growth always requires you step outside of your comfort zone. If you are going to learn anything, grow in any way, move past your current state whatever that may be, you are going to have to get uncomfortable. It will be worth it in the end.
I miss Mary. I miss her telling me to come over and look in her garage because as she put it, "I have a lot of great stuff." I miss her stories of when she lived in Chicago with her husband and ran her barbecue restaurant. I miss it all.
I realize this might be a little bit of a downer post, but truly, Mary lived a long, great life and I am blessed to have known her. I am happy for the time I did spend with her and thankful for the lessons I learned in the short amount of time I lived next door to her!