My next door neighbor died yesterday on the cold wet grass of his lawn. I’m sure he didn’t officially die until pronounced at the hospital. But I know that he died there on the lawn, his wife watching from the arms of our across-the-street neighbor and the old men from nearby grim and silent with looks of helplessness and fear on their faces that tore at my heart. The son of a neighbor was down on one knee and I’m sure there were prayers being said as the paramedics and fireman worked to save him.
He and I talked over the fence many times. He was a busy, hardworking 80 year old who kept his lawn and house in tip-top shape.
I watched from my porch, reluctant to intrude upon the crowd of neighbors who have known each other for over 30 years. I’m the youngster on the block. My first thought was for his wife, watching. My second thought for his grandson, whom he loved. He had a swing set in the backyard and a wading pool for the hot days of summer. He and his wife would play with the boy many a late summer evening.
I watched as a nurse, counting how many times they shocked him, how long they had the automatic chest compressor going. I watched the female paramedic get a line in, I watched another squeezing the bag, breathing for him. I counted down minutes in my head. I had a wild moment of hope when I clearly heard one of the paramedics say he had a pulse, but all too soon, the compressions began again.
And I kept remembering bits of conversation I had had with him over the few years I’ve been here. How he was angry at the insurance company for essentially blackmailing him into cutting down the ancient pine trees near his house. The time he told me that he was scaling back on his landscaping so that when he was gone, it wouldn’t be too much for his wife. The day he got the new rate property tax bill and he called the County Treasurer and told them that if that was what they thought his house was worth, they could cut him a check that day. The Confederate Roses he told me came from his mother-in-law’s yard, an heirloom.
I’ll always remember when they put him on the stretcher and moved him to the ambulance, there on the grass, a little way away from where he had fallen, was a gift wrapped box. A Christmas present he was probably bringing in from the car.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as sad as that green and red wrapped box in the grass.
He was a nice man, a good neighbor, a loving grandfather and I’m pretty sure a good husband and father. I’m so sad for his family. And I’ll hug mine just a little tighter this holiday season.