They Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore

This morning TheDad and I are on our way to a funeral in our old neighborhood.

When we bought our first home, we were one of only two or three young families on the block.  Most of our neighbors were retired military.  Although it was hard not to have kids around for Big Brother to play with–and I didn’t know anyone else with kids, since we were brand-new to the area code, we had lovely neighbors.

The people across the street, with the well-tended home, were “Mr. John” and “Miss Martha” to Big Brother.  Mr. John had served over 25 years in the Marines, including deployments during two wars.  He was in his late sixties by the time we moved in to the neighborhood.

Every day, Mr. John inspected every inch of his yard and sidewalk, sweeping up leaves and bits of trash.  He always had a friendly word as I wandered by with the stroller, taking Big Brother and, later, Middle Sister, for a walk around town.

The only things that were ever out of place in his immaculately-groomed yard were the plastic Easter eggs–filled with pocket change and dollar bills–that he strewed around every Easter before his grandkids came for dinner.  In the fall, a leaf would barely hit the ground before Mr. John had swept it up.

TheDad has always looked forward to their Christmas card, which is less a card than a booklet filled with inspirational stories and poems.  After receiving it, he’d give them a call and see how they were doing.  He’d also call after every snowstorm–and once or twice he just drove to the old neighborhood to help Mr. John shovel his driveway and walk.  And we’d run into them at our church carnival and Polish dinner, because they loved the pierogi!

Today we’ll say farewell to the man who, with his wife, took care of five-year-old Big Brother so I could bring Middle Sister to the ER for stitches in her forehead when she cut it on the edge of the coffee table; who always took time out of his sweeping or raking or mowing or relaxing in a lawn chair to come down the driveway and greet us as we passed on our many walks through the neighborhood.

Rest in peace, Mr. John.  We were blessed to have a neighbor like you.

R.I.P. "The Hat Lady"

Tonight we attended the wake of a woman who really “walked the walk,” “put her money where her mouth is,” and stood up for what she believed in. I first met her when Little Brother was a baby and I was trying to take him to daily Mass. He, of course, was noisy and I, of course, was upset by that–as well as by a few cranky churchgoers who didn’t want to hear baby noise in church. But Jeanne made sure I knew that Little Brother and I were welcome at Mass. She’d seek me out and tell me stories about how she’d bring her six children to church and how they’d misbehave; she’d tell me not to lose heart.

Jeanne trained the altar servers in the parish and made sure that they served properly and reverently. That meant that she was usually in the sacristy before the 9:30 Mass, where the children’s choir would gather. Middle Sister was part of that choir, and she has memories of Jeanne being there among all the children. When she was old enough, Jeanne helped her learn how to serve at the altar, a ministry Middle Sister continues today, although we are in a different parish now.

Jeanne was a Secular Franciscan as well, and she truly strove to live a Gospel life. Whether it was through her prolife work, her ministry within the parish, or her encouraging presence, she lived her faith and she wasn’t shy about sharing. Everyone knew her because of her collection of hats, but everyone who knew her knew that she was much more than just a senior with her own sense of style.

The Bishop said tonight that Jeanne has traded in her hats for a halo (probably a colorful one!)!

I am grateful for the time Jeanne took to encourage me when I needed it. I hope that I will never neglect to do the same for someone else.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.