Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Death in the Neighborhood

I am semi-active in the neighborhood association. I manage an email list and am working on updating the telephone directory. I also am working on creating a web page of FAQ about the neighborhood. I am also a "blockworker" which means I deliver newsletters to people on my block and the next one down.

We have about 300 families in the neighborhood and of course one cannot know all of them. But it seems as if one should know when one of the neighbors dies. Last year an elderly neighbor up the street from me who I had seen several times walking her small dog died several months before I had heard about it. I tend to keep to myself. My volunteerism usually takes place in front of a computer monitor, but sometimes it makes me come face to face with the neighbors and that is good.

As a part of the directory activities I need to phone some other block workers and pick up any directory forms they might have had dropped off to their house. This afternoon I did that and discovered that one of the workers' husband died a few weeks ago. I only met the woman once, and that was to pick up some completed forms, but I can almost see their house from my house and they have children almost the same age as my children are. One of their children goes to school with my kids and probably rides the same bus.

I guess I think that when something like that happens, people ought to know. Their life is now turned upside down while other people's lives are the same. When the woman told me that her husband died, she said, "Oh, since you are doing the directory you should know that Chris passed away on November 23." I didn't know who Chris was, but then remembered that when I called earlier I asked for Gaye or Chris because they are both listed as blockworkers. I was not sure what the relationship was, and didn't want to assume Chris was the husband of Gaye. I wish I had made that assumption because I think I came across as an uncaring oaf. I didn't say anything at first, then said I was sorry to hear that. She said, something like, "so you will want to take his name out of the directory" and I pretty much said, yes I guessed we would do that. I followed up with another exclamation of sorrow, and then the conversation was over.

I have not been able to stop thinking of it though. It could be my family going through this. And the mail would still be delivered, the grass would still grow, the neighbors would still be getting on with their own lives. Most would not even know anything had happened. I don't have an answer for how to be more conscious of other neighbors, but somehow I will work that in to my resolutions for next year. Maybe something like to look outward instead of always inward.

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