Gary was being wheeled out of their home on a stretcher as his wife Carol was standing on the porch watching. I asked her what happened and she thought maybe he had a stroke, but wasn't sure. I offered to take her to the hospital, but she declined and thanked me saying she would be okay. The night before Gene and I left for Omaha I asked her how he was doing and she told me the test results revealed that he had spinal meningitis.
That was all before Gene's April 6th surgery and we got back home on Thursday, April 9th. I kept telling Gene that I needed to go over and see if he was home and if not how he was doing. Finally, last Saturday, nine days after being home, I pried myself away from my busyness and walked across the street to check on our neighbors. Carol was sitting outside visiting with her son and met me at the curb. I asked her how Gary was doing and she said, "Oh, Lelia, he died on Wednesday."
She had just returned from his funeral so she was still dressed in black. I listened as she explained that on Tuesday he was doing fine and by Wednesday he was gone. In two weeks time Carol went from doing yard work with her best friend to picking out clothes for him to be buried in. Widowed after 47 years of marriage.
As I stood there listening to her share how she hadn't been sure how she was going to be able to make it through his funeral, I felt like the neighbor with a heart as shallow as a kiddie pool. Before I returned home to tell Gene the sad news, I hugged her and promised I'd pray for her.
On March 1st, we celebrated 10 years in our home. Over the years, we have found out which neighbors share a common love for Jesus as we do. We are very blessed to be surrounded by Christians wherever we look. Tom and Cindy to the west of us and Ben and Julie across the street. I know these couples believe in the One and Only because with each one of these neighbors we have talked about God. At one time or another we have encouraged each other in the Lord and shared about what He is doing or has done in our lives.
But not with Gary and Carol.
We'd wave from afar as they were always out in their perfectly trimmed yard.
If we did cross the street to talk it was about the dogs or I'd apologize for our yard not looking anywhere close to their leaf and weed free dwelling which always made them laugh.
A few years ago I would occasionally send the kids over with a plate of chocolate chip cookies in my feeble attempt to be neighborly.
They are your typical nosy neighbors and always wanted to know what was happening.
As I heard Carol's words that Gary had died, the reality that I didn't know if he was saved or not really sunk in. In the 10 years and 1 month that we have lived across from them, not one time did the name Jesus come out of my mouth. Not only don't I know their beliefs, they don't know mine. Why? Because I chose to talk about our dogs or our lawns, but never Jesus. Never was the One who I claim to be my All my topic of conversation.
I regret not sharing Jesus with Gary.
Did Gary ever have a teacher lead him to Jesus like I did when I was in 2nd grade?
Did Gary ever realize that the cross is more than a gold pendant hanging on a necklace?
Did Gary ever know forgiveness from the Original Forgiver?
Is where Gary will be for eternity worth leaving his wife for?
So now we live across the street from Carol and her dog Penny.
Happily married wife in March, sad grieving widow in April.
When I see her, do I continue to talk dog talk with her or do I strike conversation with purpose?
Has Carol ever had anyone lead her to Jesus?
Does Carol realize that the cross is more than a gold pendant hanging on a necklace?
Does Carol know she has been forgiven?
Is where Carol will spend eternity worth me taking the time to find out the answers to the above questions.
Busy will always be in my life, but will someone miss out on Jesus being in their life because of it? Takes time to walk across the street. Time I need to make.
During a political race our neighborhoods are lined with our belief in a candidate, but so often Jesus is our best kept secret. I think when Jesus told the disciples to "Go" He not only meant it for the missionaries spreading the Gospel in a foreign country, He meant it for me and for you to GO...right across our street.
The last time I spoke to Gary a few days before he left for the hospital the names Penny and Kane were mentioned.
Ten years and one month.
No mention of my Savior.
Lord, have mercy.