I lost a dear friend and neighbor over the Thanksgiving holidays.
Rob and I had talked just the week before, making arrangements for him to wheel my trash can to the curb for pickup on our designated day while I was out of state visiting family. We did that for each other whenever one was going to be away.
A couple of days later, we texted, during which I told him to forget about taking out my trash can. Our pick-up date fell on Thanksgiving Day, so there would be no trash collection anyway. Besides, there was so little trash in the can that we could simply wait until the next week's pickup, by which time we'd be home.
The day after Thanksgiving, my wife got a call from Rob's wife. Rob was in the hospital. No visitors, thanks to Covid restrictions.
We returned home and on Sunday my wife called Rob's wife to check on him. She said that he wasn't expected to make it through the day.
The next day, I saw a lady from Rob's church pull into his driveway to deliver a meal. I hurried to ask her for any update on Rob.
She hung her head and paused before saying softly and sadly, "Rob passed sometime this morning."
I was stunned. It had all happened so quickly!
Rob was the best neighbor my wife and I had ever had, and we've lived in many different communities in several states and had a lot of neighbors. But none as good as Rob.
Rob and I talked lawn care together. We helped each other out. We went shooting together. We watched each other's houses when one of us was away. We put out each other's trash cans and wheeled them back after they were emptied.
During the Covid shutdown, when Rob was forced to work at home, he often came over to visit during his lunch break. The last time he did so, we discussed the recent election and prayed together for our country.
A day or so after Rob passed, I heard a noise behind Rob's house. I looked out, half expecting to see him puttering around in the shed where he kept his mowers and other lawn-care tools.
But Rob wasn't there. He's gone.
I watched the live streaming of Rob's funeral earlier this week, and I noted how each of those who delivered eulogies mentioned one central character trait of Rob's: He was faithful.
He had worked for the same company for 40 years, the only employer he had ever had.
He was involved in the same men's prayer group of his church for 27 years.
He was a faithful husband. Not perfect, because no one is, but faithful.
What a wonderful thing to have as one's legacy! Faithfulness.
But Rob's passing also reminded me of something else that we all should remember at this time of holiday celebration: Many people struggle during these otherwise joyous holidays because they've lost loved ones like Rob. It's especially difficult for those who have lost them during the actual holidays. Those days are constant reminders of their loss.
For example, my mother was killed by a drunk driver just days before Christmas. For my siblings and me, Christmas is not only the anniversary of Christ's first advent but also the anniversary of Mom's death. We now cannot think of one day without also recalling the other. Rob's wife and countless others will be feeling their own similar losses of spouses, parents, children, close friends. Remember such sufferers during these holidays. Offer comfort and compassion whenever you can.
And there are those who are in the process of losing loved ones. I think especially of those whose loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. They are there in body, but their minds are not there. Yet, neither have they passed. How sad. Remember them, too.
But most importantly, we should consider how fleeting life is and how quickly we ourselves could pass.
Are you ready for that day?
The pastor officiating at Rob's funeral related how Rob had said that although he didn't want to die, he was not afraid to do so. Because he was ready. He had made peace with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
You and I can be ready when our time comes, too. As the seasonal saying goes, "Wise men still seek Him."