Almost two years ago, in early January, a fatal car crash happened in my small town. In the early morning, less than a mile from our high school, a woman and her mother-in-law were involved in a multi-car wreck. The mother-in-law, unfortunately, was killed. This sad news spread fast in our little town. The victims’ names sounded familiar, but I did not know them personally. Or so I thought.
About two months later, I was shocked to learn that the elderly lady who had died in that January car crash was my neighbor across the street. I had noticed that there were no vehicles in her driveway anymore. I knew she had a son and daughter-in-law who sometimes stayed with her. I had no idea they were the family impacted by that horrific accident.
I didn’t even know their names. But the lady who passed was the only neighbor on my street who had ever attempted to be friendly toward me. Whenever she saw me outside, walking to my mailbox or taking my trash can to the curb, she waved at me. Her daughter-in-law did the same a few times. In the five years I have lived on my street, they were the only ones to do so.
Suddenly, the story of that car wreck took on a whole new meaning. It was someone I knew. Someone who had been kind to me. My heart went out to the lady’s son and daughter-in-law. I could only imagine what they might be feeling after such a nightmare, how their hearts must be broken. I have never seen them return to the home. Perhaps it is too difficult for them to handle their mom no longer being there.
Every single item on the outside of the house is the same as she left it. There is even a Christmas wreath from the year that had just passed, still on the back door. Her chair, which she sat in on her carport, is still in the same position. I noticed an open curtain in the living room that made it possible to see a light on in her kitchen. Every night, when I closed my curtains, I would see the light still on above her kitchen sink. It was as though she was still there, as usual. It felt a little eerie to me but sweet at the same time.
When Spring came, I began to wonder who would take care of the yard. The lady who passed had worked many hours in her yard to take care of the flowers she had planted all over her property. It is a big yard, and she had the prettiest flowers on the street. I kept waiting to catch a glimpse of the son but never did. Finally, a couple of gardeners showed up and started mowing and caring for the yard. Her flowers were the first to bloom and once again filled her yard with color. It was sad to look at them now, remembering how much joy they must have brought her.
Every night, for a year and a half, I would look over to see the light on in her kitchen as I closed my curtains. Then one night, the light was out. Finally, after all this time, the light burned out. It felt sad. It felt like an ending of sorts.
It will never make sense to me how life just goes on after someone passes. The earth keeps spinning, and the sun rises and sets each day without missing a beat. When a loved one leaves this earth, it feels as though everything in our lives, even the world, should come to a halt and recognize what has just happened. Everyone should stop what they are doing for a respectful amount of time. But that doesn’t happen. Everything keeps moving as usual.
I am sure my neighbor’s flowers will again bloom when next Spring arrives, just where she planted them. They will be vibrant and full, just as she nourished them to be. If I could, I would thank her for leaving them for all of us to enjoy. Maybe this new year, someone will move into the house and make it home again. It would be so lovely to look over and see life and happiness there once again.