On my neighbor’s small porch there sets a small bench. I never paid too much attention to it before. It faded into the background of life’s canvas like so many things do. But today, I’m thinking a lot about that bench.
It’s quiet today; especially today.
My neighbor’s name is Bill; perfect really, a simple name for a simple man. Bill is almost 80 years old. He speaks with a southern drawl that’s as thick as his glasses. Like that old small bench, he’s a bit weathered but still strong. His laugh is contagious. I liked him right away. He’s the neighbor everyone should have. Need a wrench, an extension cord, a screwdriver? Check with Bill.
For years I have watched Bill and his wife Jackye’s routine. They’re that cute couple you’ve seen in the park or at the restaurant. Married for more than 60 years, they’ve made their living, raised their kids, lived a full life. The twilight years had arrived. Each and every afternoon, their garage door opened and the Cadillac slowly backed down the narrow driveway. It was time for Bill and Jackye to go out to dinner. Jackye’s dressed in a simple white sweater, her grey, curly hair neatly in place. She’d wave to my little girls as the car slowly pulled away.
Countless summer evenings I’d come home from work and Bill and Jackye would be on that bench. It’s hot. Bill’s lawn mower rests in the tall grass of his half-mowed lawn. There he is taking a break, wiping his forehead, and sipping lemonade with his bride of more than six decades; talking….always talking.
Only now, it’s quiet; especially today.
After months of fighting illness and dementia, Jackye passed away peacefully on a Sunday with Bill at her side. He was always at her side. He fought it as long as he could, but he finally had her in a care facility in her final days. Every single day for the past four months, Bill would leave his house at 6:30 in the morning and not come home until well after 9 o’clock at night taking care of her. I’d talk to him when he came home. I’d remind him that he has to take of himself too. He’d just nod and smile. For better or for worse.
At her funeral her life was described as a song. “Jackye’s song was a romantic song,” the man behind the podium said. “Her kindness and love for people came out of her like perfect musical notes. Her love and devotion to her husband poured out like a beautiful melody.” Jackye’s grandson walked up to the podium with his guitar. He sang a song he wrote entitled, “I know there’s a heaven.”
I know there’s a heaven
I know that it’s true
it’s the only place big enough for someone like you
Although my heart breaks for Bill, it was awesome hearing Jackye’s song. It’s inspiring knowing that it plays on in the lives of her family.