This weekend the town we live in said goodbye to a young man named Jake, who, after 3 years living with osteosarcoma, was taken from his friends and family just a few days shy of his 19th birthday.
I didn’t know him personally, but instead got to know him and his family through the updates they shared with us during his journey. Updates that were heartbreaking, yes, but often also heartwarming, funny, sarcastic, silly and introspective.
With each update, we saw an outpouring of support and love directed towards this young man and his family. As they sped, unwillingly I’m sure, through the months, not years he had remaining, the support reached a fevered pitch as those in our community tried to do something, anything, to help – including decking our town in orange (his favorite color).
Sitting in the gymnasium for Jake’s celebration of life, looking at all the people wearing orange – some I knew, most I didn’t – I found myself reflecting on the choices we make when we move into a new home.
When we bought our house, I’ll admit we didn’t think too much beyond the boundaries of the yard. Top of our mind was, could we afford it (barely), and was it closer to work and my family. Perhaps we looked at test scores (our son was 1 at the time). I know we drove around the neighborhood after the offer was accepted.
But other than that? We didn’t think about the town at all.
And yet, the town has given us so much. Friendships that have endured, even when those friends left town. Good memories of times spent with neighbors. A safety net when we needed help (as when a neighbor dropped a bottle of Advil on our front step for my husband who was home recovering from dental surgery without a painkiller in the house while I was at work). A community of parents looking out for our kids, and making it seem as we have eyes everywhere (as when one is spotted riding around town without a helmet).
Seeing our community pull together for Jake and his family, I have been reminded that geography still matters. Neighbors can become family.
And how lucky we are for where we landed.
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood, A neighborly day for a beauty, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you, I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, Since we’re together, we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? “
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood