We live on a court with ten other families. It is a microcosm of Norman Rockwell’s America.
Children ride bikes and scooters and run most everywhere they go. They climb trees and do sidewalk art. Adults shoot baskets on the basketball goal. Pets are known by name and loved by all.
Neighbors call out to each other, “Hi neighbor!” Conversations are held from deck to deck, porch to porch, or from lawn chairs in a circle in each other’s yards.
Everyone watches out for each other. People notice when garage doors are left open, cars are out of place or children are about to do something not parentally approved.
There have been births here on the court. Children grew up here and now bring their children back here to visit grandparents.
There have been marriages and divorces.
Some people have moved away and others have come. The connections made here continue long after the moving vans have pulled out of sight. The “new people” quickly become new friends.
There has been much sharing, but also secrets known only behind closed doors. People are willing to share the lives they choose to share. People respect the boundaries and do not pry into what others choose to leave covered.
While great joys have been celebrated here, so has great suffering been endured. Illness, injuries, stressful family relations, broken hearts … this court has seen them all.
But this week there was something new and unwelcome that crept into our midst … grief … a grief so intense it had to be shared. Mary, a resident of the court since its beginning, died.
Her death was not unexpected. She had fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. Her arrival in Heaven must have filled the streets with shouts of joy and welcome.
But the certainty of her joy was not enough for her beloved husband of 41 years. He was inconsolable. He summed it up well when he said, ”She won. I lost.”
As he retreated into his house with his family, his grief was palpable even through the walls to the neighbors outside.
As before, everyone respected his right to privately grieve. Words or food or other expressions of sympathy seemed empty. Taking flowers to a meeting at a funeral home did not feel right.
And then from the group of neighbors, there came an idea. Mary had loved flowers. Many remembered her sitting by the mailbox planting flowers. She loved sunflowers.
Tonight some of our neighbors put a sunflower on every mailbox on the court with extra flowers on her mailbox.
Several drew and colored a large heart with her name in the center. It was in the middle of the court.
Her husband came out and stood in awe, as he was surrounded by flowers and loving neighbors, who stood back and let him take it all in.
While he stood at the heart in tears, he heard not empty words. He felt the shared grief of his friends.
He understood we were saying, “We can’t fix the pain, but we are here. We remember Mary. Whether a long or short time with her, her life touched us all. And so does yours.”
Tomorrow the court will be busy again with the sounds of lives that will continue to unfold. It is forecasted to rain, so likely the heart will fade into the pavement.
When we get the mail, we will smile at the flowers that will be there for now. And we will likely take a moment to reflect on how fragile life is and how important it is to do it together.