For the last few months, we have had to be careful when we backed out of the driveway. One or two cars have been parked continually across the street for 24 hours/day. The cars themselves change, and sometimes they are closer to directly behind us as we back out, although sometimes they are parked a little further down the curb.
The couple that lives in the house across the street are a very private couple – one that we wave to, but rarely have a conversation with. It was probably last fall that we noticed a pattern, where the husband worked around the house in the yard, like he always did, but then on either Wednesday or Thursday, he would drive off for the weekend, leaving his mail to be picked up by his next-door neighbor. We never saw his wife, but that wasn’t unusual, since shortly after the time we bought the house and moved in, she became sick with some sort of disease, perhaps cancer.
Finally, one day when I was outside, he came across the street and asked if we would like to have apples from his tree in his backyard. Before we could answer, he said he just didn’t have the time or the energy to take care of them all, since his wife was in a nursing home in Minneapolis (about 250 miles away), where his children lived, and he needed to drive down and see her each week. We offered our sympathy for her illness, and said we would hold them in prayer, but in a mere instant, the house across the street became very lonely and sad.
Then the virus hit. We noticed that he wasn’t leaving each week anymore, and we sadly surmised that with that horrible pandemic, all visits to nursing homes in Minnesota at least had been banned. I would suppose them both to be in their 80s, and so after being married for 60? years or more, in the blink of a germ, they were separated, perhaps for the rest of her life. This went on through March and most of April, but then one day, the cars appeared.
No less than one car, but often two would be parked on the street, and in the morning, the afternoon, and then in the evening, another car would show up, and one of the other two would soon drive off. We discovered, of course, that our neighbor decided to change the rules. If he couldn’t see her in Minneapolis in a nursing home, he would create one in his very house, and then he brought her home.
As holidays and other weekends rolled along, some days, for a few days, there would be four or five other cars, presumably that children or other relatives would come to visit and stay for a few days. A couple of times this summer, we even saw the wife with a couple of other folks sitting outside in the sun on their front lawn, that he had meticulously cared for. As the weather has started to turn, she hasn’t come outside anymore.
But he does – he mows and trims and prunes and cares for his lawn, probably because it is one thing he can do, as the folks in the cars parked across our street care for his wife, offering hopefully relief from any pain or struggle. We’ve talked about going across the street and bringing something tasty for them, but with the virus still at hand, we would never want to be the cause for an accidental exposure, by making contact, or providing food that might inadvertently have been tainted. We are all healthy, but Cheri works daily at a clinic, and so you just don’t know.
So, he attends to his marriage vows in a special way – “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” – till death does them part. We aren’t holding a death watch across the street, but whenever I see the cars, or see him working in the yard, I keep our promise to pray for them, and to entrust them to the hands of God for the living of each day of life.
Some would call these months we have had to live through “damnable” times – pardon my language, but they would indeed condemn even the days that have been lived in fear and pain and struggle. However, when I look across the street, and see such a powerful witness of love from one person to another, and I’m sure her love for him as well, as they get to spend these days together, I am struck by what a holy time this is – even right now.
Mom was in hospice for five years, and for almost four of those years, she was bedbound, living in one room, on her back, helpless and waiting for anyone to care for her. When I first encountered that on a visit to see her, I was struck to see such a terrible setting for a life that had been so well lived. On each occasion, as I came to see her, and after the hours we spent together, my opinion changed. I remembered a saying that I often spoke, in trying to help others find the strength and focus for the living of their days. I would say, “It’s not what happens to you that matters – it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
Mom took her illness, lying flat on her back, and wagged her finger in defiance. She piled the table beside her with all sorts of devotionals and other special books, she savored a good cup of coffee, and maybe something sweet to eat. She watched golf on TV, and was always happy to see anyone who was able to stop by and come see her for a bit. She continually transformed her gratitude into grace, and made anyone who stopped by so much better than before they came.
When she died, and the cars were parked up and down her street, as children and grandchildren and others came to where she used to be, of course we were sad, but more than that, we realized what a gift her life had given to us, and nothing had been wasted – just different, and lived with a different emphasis, but the same purpose – to intentionally bring joy to this world, and to reflect the image of God to others.
It’s raining today, and the cars just changed, and my prayers for the folks across the street continue. God bless them, and all who live in these times.
Word for the Day: hyperbole. Pronounced hi-PER-bowl-ee, you’ve no doubt run across this word a million times or more… it’s defined as “extravagant exaggeration,” which makes it one of the most important words of all time…
It comes from the Greek, hyperbole, broken into two words, hyper, meaning “beyond or above”, and bole, “to throw .” Take a rock, and throw it as hard and high as you can, so that you almost hit the international space station, and that’s hyperbole. And please remember: if I have told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times – don’t exaggerate!
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.