This is a true story, but I have changed the names to protect the privacy of those in it.
We have loved having Sam and Beth as our elderly neighbors. We have lived together in the same neighborhood for many years.
We watched them tending the flower garden, going out to get the mail, carefully driving to the mall every morning … and in recent times holding each other’s hands as they very carefully navigated around the yard.
In the early years, they faithfully came to the neighborhood potlucks. In the latter years, they extended their good wishes, even when they could not come.
They welcomed new neighbors as they moved in. They sadly said good bye to those who left. They talked to the children and petted the dogs. They asked about our grown children who had moved away.
When we talked, they never gossiped. Their conversation was filled with gratitude for all The Lord had done and was doing in their lives. I always went away feeling blessed.
As they got older, there were those who wondered how long they could continue to live independently. But any crisis they had, they carefully concealed. If they shared at all, it was usually after the problem was resolved.
Many of us were initially unaware that Beth had become more than a little forgetful. A brief conversation did not reveal any problems. But as we continued talking, sometimes she would switch times and places and occasionally forget our names.
Sam became her constant companion, protector and ultimately her caregiver. He told me a year or two ago that some were encouraging them to move, but, he said, “Beth loves it here. She loves her flowers. It makes her happy and if I can make her happy for even one more day … well, that makes me happy.”
Recently Sam developed health problems. Sciatica necessitated a cane and then a walker. Then there was recurring hives. And finally a kidney stone.
Reluctantly Sam began considering moving to a senior community. While he might have considered the options longer, an opportunity came up suddenly. He told us he wanted to make the decision while he was still able to be the one making it.
Sam left us the most beautiful telephone message telling of their decision. He thanked us for being such good neighbors for all these years and told us how much he hated to leave. But he said through tears, “It is time.”
While my primary sadness is the loss of Sam and Beth as neighbors, their sudden move has affected me on a much deeper level. It has brought a re-grief of losing my parents and parents in law.
It has shaken the stability of those things and people I like to consider firm, fixed and reliable.
It has caused me to consider a future when my husband and I might be the elderly couple facing the prospect of needing to say goodbye to the home we love.
Perhaps we should begin now, not by packing up, but beginning to unpack our lives, so we can travel lightly to the next stop.
I began practicing today. I relinquished something that had been very important to me for almost 50 years. It was time. It felt strangely liberating.
Jesus assures us He is preparing a place for us and when it is ready … when it is time … He will personally escort us there. Many think He was speaking of a far away Heaven, but I believe He was speaking of every place He prepares for us along the way.
He prepared the next place for Sam and Beth. And He will continue to do the same for all of us. We just have to be ready to gently close the door when it is time and walk with anticipation into our new home.
“After Jesus said these things, he looked toward heaven and prayed, ‘Father, the time has come.’” John 17:1
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3