We went to a surprise birthday party last night for a neighbor who, not that long ago, didn't know if he'd ever see another birthday.
When we moved to our neighborhood a couple of years ago, he and his wife were one of the first ones to come and visit. I felt embarrassed as my children acted, well, like children. They were excited to see visitors and ran around happily to and from the room we were sitting in. Our new neighbors both sighed contentedly. They lamented their quiet, empty house lacking in the joyful noise of children.
About a year ago, the first signs of cancer appeared, heartbreaking for his family and our neighborhood. He declined rapidly. The cancer and the drugs treating the cancer quickly ravaged his body. Yet his spirit was cheerful and optimistic. Soon his appearance was so altered we hardly knew it was him. He continued happy and kind. After a while I forgot what he used to look like.
I often saw him puttering around his yard. He came to church with a surgical mask on. He couldn't shake any hands out of fear that germs would compromise his already struggling body. I never saw him without a smile. He would often tell me, "I told my wife this morning, it's gonna be a good day, I didn't die in the night!" Then he would laugh gently at his own joke.
The party last night was well attended. He seemed surprised that people would come to celebrate his life. What he doesn't understand is, that he is a gift to us. A friend, a neighbor, an example.
On days when I feel down physically or emotionally, I hope to remember our neighbor. "It's gonna be a good day".
In slightly less emotional other news:
I saw a beat up old black truck today that had the words "Truck Norris" printed on it's hood. And yes, the driver was sporting a mullet.
People are awesome.