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Empathetic Grief
Photo: Anita B. Patterson
The phone rang the other night. It was a friend in our neighborhood, wondering if we had the phone number of the family next door. I knew that the woman next door was really sick with a heart condition that she had just found out about, though apparently had been suffering from since birth. I told our friend that we did not have the phone number, and then I asked if she had heard how this sick neighbor was doing. I was not expecting to hear what she had to tell me. My forty-year-old neighbor had died a few days ago.

My heart began to ache. I'm not very accustomed to dealing with death. Some of my oldest relatives have died but those were more expected than this death. Thoughts ran though my mind of how nobody expects to loose their spouse so young. I was still looking forward to the promise of getting together with this couple next door and their kids. They had bought an outfit for our new baby girl and she had just grown into it. I was really looking forward to showing them how she looked in it. All of these thoughts ran into tears. 

Crying for Days

Why was this affecting me so much? A vague acquaintance had died and now I was crying over it for days. It plagued me every time I looked out the window or walked by their house.

I began to wonder what we could do to help. I love to bake, so I thought we could bring them some cookies. Maybe flowers or a card would be nice. None of these ideas seemed to fit. My husband and I both agreed that we would pledge to get to know the family next door—to help break the pain of loss with love. I may not have taken the opportunity to get to know the woman next door, but I wanted to open my heart up, to love her by showing love to her family.

This incident has prompted me to try to learn more about the people that God has placed in my life and be a better neighbor.

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By Marion Ruybalid. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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