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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

My neighbor: on anonymity

Our neighbor of over four decades passed away (isn't that an interesting idiom?) on Sunday, two days ago. This was not totally unexpected, as he had been hospitalized numerous times within the past couple of years. I was computing away one morning a couple of months ago, and saw an ambulance come to pick him up. He was able to walk to it. However, he never returned to his earthly home. He had respiratory problems, and heart problems.

Some observations:
1) Even though his death was not a total surprise, it surprised, as death always does, by its finality. This man's life is over. He's never returning home.
2) Our neighbor had become a Christian.When we first knew him, he wasn't one. There were times when he didn't act like one, and he didn't talk like one -- his conversation wasn't about Christ, and the Bible, and about his church (he didn't have one). Then, perhaps twenty years ago, all of this changed. He talked about God, he went to church whenever it was open, he read his Bible, and he said that he prayed daily. He was kinder and gentler. He was living testimony to the fact that belief in Christ can change a person's life.
3) Our neighbor was very careful about a number of things, such as how he spent his money, and how his cars, equipment, and house were treated. The most peculiar thing about him, at least that I knew of, was his reaction to junk mail. I took his mail out of the mailbox, and took it to him, or gave it to someone from his church that would see him soon, over the last months, and also before, when he was hospitalized for shorter periods.
How was he peculiar about junk mail? The first thing he would do would be to tear his address off the envelope, shred that with his hands, and then throw the envelope, and the shreds, in the trash. Why? I'm not really sure. It made no sense to me. But I went along with it. I love my neighbor, and respected his wishes. My conclusion is that he was trying to protect his privacy. He somehow thought that having his name and address intact on an envelope in a trash was an invitation to burglars, or to other pests. So he destroyed these bits of evidence that he existed. It didn't stop him from getting junk mail. It didn't make him anonymous -- he was in the phone book. I don't think he had a concept of on-line searches, but, trust me, he could have been found. I just did a Google search for his name, and our town and state. His obituary came up, and there are two companies with ads on the search page that claim to know about him, and tell others. Whitepages.com (which was not one of the advertising companies) gave me his address, his phone number, and his approximate age.
The Bible says that there is one kind of anonymity that my neighbor didn't want, and didn't have:
1 Corinthians 8:3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (ESV, as are other scripture quotations in this post.)

It also says that there is anonymity, even in heaven:
Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ My neighbor has that kind of anonymity. I hope and pray that I achieve the same.
Out of respect for this characteristic, I am not linking to his obituary, or giving his name.
4) He had a loving church family. He, with his wife, who preceded him in death, were faithful church attenders. His church loved him. We saw his pastor, and other church members, visit him. One of his church members, a woman who didn't work outside her home, cleaned his house, and did other chores for him. There were cards and "we miss you" handwork, from his church, on hospital room and nursing home walls. I don't agree with everything his church believes and teaches. They accept only the King James version of the Bible, and, although they don't say so, I think they only accept that if it's bound in black. I think they are wrong in that. But they display the main sign of Christianity. They love one another. (See John 17, and John 13:35)
5) The things he accumulated aren't permanent, and don't matter much. As I said, he loved his church, and they loved him. Even before the funeral, his pastor was taking some of his material possessions for himself, which was my neighbor's wish, and had the consent of his family. My wife, looking out our window, remarked about how impermanent material things are. How little they really matter. How true.

Rest in peace, neighbor.

4 comments:

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

Touching story. Thanks for sharing. Blessings and favor with the rest of your neighbors and the one that will replace the one who just passed the line of worlds.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kerry i am.

Julana said...

It's interesting you and Violet lost a neighbor at the same time. You were fortunate to have such a long relationship, and to be able to see grace at work in a life. (Our neighborhood is transitional, with lots of moving going on.) He sounds like a good person. I hope his family is comforted.

Martin LaBar said...

Indeed we were fortunate.

His family is comforted, as far as I can tell.

It looks like we'll be getting a new neighbor, eventually.

Thanks.